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The Gerontologist 48:149-157 (2008)
© 2008 The Gerontological Society of America

Recall in Older Cancer Patients: Measuring Memory for Medical Information

Jesse Jansen, MA1, Julia van Weert, PhD2, Nienke van der Meulen, MA1, Sandra van Dulmen, PhD1, Thea Heeren, MD, PhD3 and Jozien Bensing, PhD1,4

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Jesse Jansen, NIVEL (Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research), P.O. Box 1568, 3500 BN Utrecht, The Netherlands. E-mail: j.jansen{at}

Purpose: Remembering medical treatment information may be particularly taxing for older cancer patients, but to our knowledge this ability has never been assessed in this specific age group only. Our purpose in this study was to investigate older cancer patients' recall of information after patient education preceding chemotherapy. Design and Methods: We constructed a recall questionnaire consisting of multiple-choice questions, completion items, and open-ended questions related to information about treatment and recommendations on how to handle side effects. Immediately after a nursing consultation preceding chemotherapy treatment, 69 older patients (M = 71.8 years, SD = 4.1) completed the questionnaire. We checked recall against the actual communication in video recordings of the consultations. Results: On average, 82.2 items were discussed during the consultations. The mean percentage of information recalled correctly was 23.2% for open-ended questions, 68.0% for completion items, and 80.2% for multiple-choice questions. Implications: Older cancer patients are confronted with a lot of information. Recall of information strongly depended on question format; especially active reproduction appeared to be poor. To improve treatment outcomes, it is important that cancer patients are able to actively retrieve knowledge about how to prevent and recognize adverse side effects and that this is checked by the health professional. We make suggestions on how to make information more memorable for older cancer patients.

Key Words: Cancer care • Cognition • Memory • Patient education

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J. Jansen, P. N. Butow, J. C.M. van Weert, S. van Dulmen, R. J. Devine, T. J. Heeren, J. M. Bensing, and M. H.N. Tattersall
Does Age Really Matter? Recall of Information Presented to Newly Referred Patients With Cancer
J. Clin. Oncol., November 20, 2008; 26(33): 5450 - 5457.
[Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

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Copyright © 2008 by The Gerontological Society of America.