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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 3

of 'Discussing serious news'

What patients value when oncologists give news of cancer recurrence: commentary on specific moments in audio-recorded conversations.
Back AL, Trinidad SB, Hopley EK, Arnold RM, Baile WF, Edwards KA
Oncologist. 2011;16(3):342-50. Epub 2011 Feb 24.
PURPOSE: Recommendations for communicating bad or serious news are based on limited evidence. This study was designed to understand patient perspectives on what patients value when oncologists communicate news of cancer recurrence.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Participants were 23 patients treated for a gastrointestinal cancer at a tertiary U.S. cancer center within the past 2 years, who had semistructured qualitative interviews in which they listened to audio recordings of an oncology fellow discussing news of cancer recurrence with a standardized patient. Participants paused the audio recording to comment on what they liked or disliked about the oncologist's communication.
RESULT: Three themes were identified that refine existing approaches to discussing serious news. The first theme, recognition, described how the oncologist responded to the gravity of the news of cancer recurrence for the patient. Participants saw the need for recognition throughout the encounter and not just after the news was given. The second theme, guiding, describeswhat participants wanted after hearing the news, which was for the oncologist to draw on her biomedical expertise to frame the news and plan next steps. The third theme, responsiveness, referred to the oncologist's ability to sense the need for recognition or guidance and to move fluidly between them.
CONCLUSION: This study suggests that oncologists giving news of cancer recurrence could think of the communication as going back and forth between recognition and guidance and could ask themselves: "Have I demonstrated that I recognize the patient's experience hearing the news?" and "Have I provided guidance to the next steps?"
University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA. tonyback@u.washington.edu