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Prognosis Affects Memory of First Cancer Consultation

Patients with worse prognosis had less recall of information discussed in visit

TUESDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with a poorer cancer prognosis recalled less information following an initial visit with their oncologist, according to a report published online Oct. 20 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Jesse Jansen, of the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from 260 adults with cancer who were making an initial consultation with a medical or radiation oncologist. The consultation was audiotaped, and researchers measured subjects' recall of details about diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

The results suggest that older patients had more trouble remembering information from longer consultations in which more information was presented to them. In addition, patients with a worse prognosis had poorer recall, the researchers found. Also, when patients were given more information about their prognosis, they remembered less, regardless of their actual prognosis, the report indicates.

"In this study, more than half of the provided information was forgotten. Older patients were particularly vulnerable to information overload. However, our results also clearly suggest that 'the frail are not always the elderly,' as a poorer prognosis seems to reduce recall of information independent of age," the authors write, who recommend that clinicians "tailor information to patients' needs; prioritize to the most important, personally relevant information; organize and categorize; repeat and summarize the most relevant information and review it on subsequent visits; use simple language; and provide written materials or audio-recordings for later referral."

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