Given a choice, three-quarters of cancer patients would gamble on riskier treatments that might offer longer survival than choose safer treatments that guarantee a shorter life, new research shows.
The study, by University of Southern California scientists, found 77 percent of cancer patients said they would choose a "hopeful gamble" treatment -- offering a 50-50 chance of either adding three years or no additional survival — over a "safe bet" treatment option that would keep them alive for 18 months, but no longer.
The analysis, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggests how much cancer patients value hope and has important implications for how insurers cover treatment, said lead researcher Darius Lakdawalla.
The findings are based on a USC survey of 150 cancer patients undergoing treatment
"Consumers tend to dislike risk, and researchers and policy makers have generally assumed that patients care about the average gain in survival," Lakdawalla said.
"But patients facing a fatal disease with relatively short remaining life expectancy may have less to lose and be more willing to swing for the fences. This analysis points to the larger ideal — that value should be defined from the viewpoint of the patient."