Korean J Health Promot.  2016 Jun;16(2):101-110. 10.15384/kjhp.2016.16.2.101.

Doctors' Ageism towards the Elderly Cancer Patients: Focusing on Disclosure of Cancer Diagnosis and Explanation on Treatment

  • 1Institute of Aging, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea.
  • 2Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Hallym University Medical Center, Hallym University College of Medicine, Anyang, Korea. fhdzang@hallym.ac.kr
  • 3Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Hallym University Medical Center, Hallym University College of Medicine, Chuncheon, Korea.
  • 4Department of Hematology-Oncology, Aju University Hospital, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea.
  • 5Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 6Department of Social Welfare, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea.
  • 7Department of Social Welfare, Hallym Polytechnic University, Chuncheon, Korea.
  • 8Department of Social Welfare, Sungkonghoe University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 9Department of Social Welfare, Graduate School of Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea.


This research is an exploratory study that is based on previous studies focusing on relationship between the doctors and the elderly cancer patients; moreover, the research focuses on the doctors' negative attitudes and discriminative behaviors towards the elderly cancer patients so that we may be able to suggest the ways to decrease the ageism.
Qualitative method and quantitative method were applied sequently. In this research, we practiced in-depth interviews with 8 doctors and then the surveys with 274 doctors. The in-depth interview questions were categorized depending on meaningful testimonies and the survey data were analyzed in the descriptive statistic analysis and paired t-test using PASW statistics 18.
Through the in-depth interviews, the following is observed: the doctors rarely notify the elderly cancer patients directly; the family members of patients avoids the doctors to do so; and the doctors even show different attitudes or discriminatory actions to the elderly. Based on the in-depth interview results, the questions on notifying methods of the diagnosis and how to explain for treatment were developed and performed as a survey. Through the survey, only 8.4% of the doctors reported they directly notify the elderly cancer patient; moreover, they also reported they provide less information on treatment, side-effects, prognosis, and medical cost to the elderly than the middle-aged.
This research not only discovered the presence of discrimination towards the elderly cancer patients but also suggested the causes of it. In order to resolve the phenomenon, doctors must consider individualized difference and variability of physiological function and should be aware of the psychological change after the cancer diagnosis to better communicate with them. Additionally, the social family culture which overprotects the elderly must be changed.


Ageism; Cancer; Elderly; Diagnosis

MeSH Terms

Discrimination (Psychology)
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