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Fox Chase Cancer Center oncologist studies treatment decision making & doctor-patient communication

PHILADELPHIA (October 16, 2003) Treatment decision-making is often challenging for patients diagnosed with cancer. These patients face an especially tough task, as the treatments may have significant side effects and their options may be limited. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, medical oncologist, Neal J. Meropol, M.D., of Fox Chase Cancer Center, is currently studying new ways in which cancer patients can make the most informed and comfortable decisions.

"Our hope for the study is to develop a communication aid for patients to better facilitate treatment decision-making," said Meropol. "First we're going to assess what's most important to each individual patient, for example, 'How important to you is quality of life as you undergo treatment?' and 'How much detail do you want from your doctor?' We're also going to teach patients how best to communicate these values to their doctors. We want to give patients the tools they need to make treatment decisions that work for them."

In this multi-center study funded by the NIH, Meropol and his colleagues will develop and test an interactive internet-based tool that assesses patient values and information needs, provides education about cancer treatment and offers communication skills training. Before the patient arrives for a consultation, a computer-generated report will be given to the physician.

The report will provide a summary of the patient's values, wishes regarding the roles of patient and doctor in decision-making, and desires concerning the detail and nature of how potential risk and benefit information about treatment is presented to them.

Meropol has identified in his previous studies that important goals of medical decision making are often not met for cancer patients considering treatment options, including satisfactory discussion of issues consistant with individual patient values, and effective communication of physician expectations of potential
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Contact: Colleen Kirsch
colleen.kirsch@fccc.edu
215-728-7784
Fox Chase Cancer Center
16-Oct-2003


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