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Oncologists May Avoid Frank Discussions with Patients

Patients unlikely to receive clear information about survival gain of palliative chemotherapy

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- During treatment-related consultations with oncologists, most patients with advanced cancer are not given clear information about the survival gain of palliative chemotherapy, according to research published online July 31 in BMJ.

Suzanne Audrey, a research associate at the University of Bristol in Bristol, U.K., and colleagues recorded and analyzed conversations between nine oncologists and 37 patients, including 12 with non-small-cell lung cancer, 13 with pancreatic cancer and 12 with colorectal cancer.

The researchers found that only six of the 37 patients were given numerical data about the survival benefit of treatment. They also found that 26 of the conversations contained either vague references such as "buy you some time" or no mention at all of survival benefits.

"The authors conclude that more training should be offered to oncologists to help them share such information sensitively and effectively," state the authors of an accompanying editorial. "The study also highlights the need for more research into how to transfer this information more effectively. This should include in-depth exploration of consultations, using techniques such as discourse analysis, to investigate the dynamics of the consultation; the development and evaluation of nationally agreed and updated information about the prognosis of advanced and metastatic cancer and the benefits of palliative chemotherapy; and the development of decision aids to help patients interpret the information offered."

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