Knowledge about cancer treatment and research was mixed, with 56% believing that the treatment was worse than the cancer itself, 44.7 % and 23.1% believing that mastectomy and prostatectomy respectively were the only ways to cure breast and prostate cancer, and 55.2% and 48.3% believing that chemotherapy and radiotherapy respectively were dangerous. Less than a third (31%) knew the meaning of a clinical trial, 23% knew what placebo meant, and only 4.2% understood the term randomisation.
Responses did not vary much among the 89 (17.2 %) people who had had cancer in the past, apart from the fact that more believed it could be cured (71.85% compared to 57.25% among people who had not had cancer), and fewer believed in the importance of psychological support (62.5% among cancer survivors versus 69.75% among those who had never had cancer). This last finding appears counter-intuitive, but Dr Estap believes this might be due to the fact that with few psycho-oncologists available in Spanish hospitals, the elderly cancer survivors might not have had access to them and, in addition, might have assumed that being depressed when having cancer was normal. On the other hand, healthy people, who have not experienced cancer may assume that it would be horrible and that they would be very anxious, depressed, distressed and in need of psychological support, but when people actually do have cancer they experience lower levels of these emotions.
Dr Estap concluded: At the moment, our elderly people come from a time when health information was poor, cancer was often thought of as an incurable disease, and therefore there was nothing that could be done to prevent or to cure it. I think ou
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