Cancer patients have high needs for information and emotional support, but physicians are not always able to detect and respond effectively to these needs, explains the studys lead researcher, Phyllis N. Butow, Ph.D., of the Medical Psychology Research Unit at the University of Sydney in Australia. Doctors appear to have particular difficulty detecting and responding to indirect forms of communication.
Researchers at the University of Sydney reviewed transcripts of nine oncologists consultations with 298 adult cancer patients to understand how the patients communicated their informational and emotional needs and how the doctors responded. Each patient also answered questions measuring their satisfaction with the consultation and their anxiety before and after the consultation.
The patients, who ranged in age from 18 to 83 years, had genitourinary, breast, gastrointestinal, skin or other cancers.
During the medical consultations, the patients asked an average of nine direct questions and gave an average of three indirect verbal cues signaling that they needed information or emotional support. Indirect informational cues included statement such as I really dont know much about the different treatments, and indirect emotional cues included statements such as I get so upset sometimes that I cant stop crying.
Patients gave informational cues almost twice as often as emotional cues. Younger and female patients gave more emotional cues and asked more questions than did older and male patients. Most cues related to treatment issues rather than psychosocial, prognostic or other issues.
The oncologists effectively identified and responded to the patients needs for information, but less consistently ad
Contact: Prof. Simon Chapman
Center for the Advancement of Health