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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 22

of 'Discussing serious news'

Oncologists' attitudes toward and practices in giving bad news: an exploratory study.
Baile WF, Lenzi R, Parker PA, Buckman R, Cohen L
J Clin Oncol. 2002 Apr;20(8):2189-96.
PURPOSE: To examine the attitudes and practices of oncologists in disclosure of unfavorable medical information to cancer patients.
METHODS: A questionnaire was administered to a group of physicians who attended the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The questionnaire assessed demographic and practice-related information and the frequency of patient encounters in which unfavorable cancer-related information was disclosed. Participants were also asked about difficulties they had when approaching stressful discussions and communication strategies used in giving unfavorable information.
RESULTS: The questionnaire was completed by 167 oncologists. Sixty-four percent were medical oncologists. Thirty-eight percent practiced in North America, 26% practiced in Europe, 13% practiced in South America, and 13% practiced in Asia. Participants gave bad news to patients an average of 35 times per month. Discussing no further curative treatment and hospice was reported as most difficult. In disclosing the cancer diagnosis and prognosis, physicians from Western countries were less likely to withhold unfavorable information from the patient at the family's request, avoid the discussion entirely, use euphemisms, and give treatments known not to be effective so as not to destroy hope than physicians from other countries. There was significant variability in opinions regarding the best time to discuss resuscitation, with 18% of respondents believing that it should be done close to the end of life.
CONCLUSION: There was significant variability in how physicians approach information disclosure to cancer patients. Factors such as geographical region and cultural and family variables may be important influences in this process.
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA. wbaile@mdanderson.org