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Finding the right way to tell the family about cancer

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For the first time, a programme has been developed to help cancer patients discuss their condition with family, friends and colleagues. Dr Alexander Marm from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, has based his new strategy on the one that is currently used to train doctors in communicating effectively with their patients.

The quality of life for patients with cancer is dependent not only on medical care but also on the psychological and social support provided by the people around them. "There are two major problems here: anxiety, enhanced by a lack of knowledge," explained Dr Marm, speaking at the European Society of Medical Oncology Congress today (20 October 2002). "The patient is afraid of talking about their illness with relatives. They don't know how to deal with it. The lack of communication causes additional stress in personal relationships."

The five-step protocol, developed in 1998 by Buckman and Baile for doctors, improves the way in which they break bad news to their patients. A better understanding of the worries of an uncertain future benefits both doctors and patients. However, until now, there has been no similar programme for patients, who also have to convey distressing news to family, friends and peers. Dr Marm established from a questionnaire and interviews with patients that this is a problem that requires attention. It differs distinctly from the communication between clinician and patient. For instance, when a patient is breaking bad news, emotional expression and body contact, the absence of 'professional distance' and specialist knowledge of t
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Contact: Gracemarie Bricalli
gracemarie@esmo.org
0041-91-973-1911
European Society for Medical Oncology
20-Oct-2002


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