Patients and doctors 'have differing expectations about advanced cancer'

19 July 2016

A new study has indicated that patients often have problematically different perceptions of their own cancer prognosis than those of their doctors.

The University of Vermont-led research involved a large clinical trial to assess support communication provided to advanced cancer patients. Subjects and their oncologists were asked to rate their two-year survival probability expectations, while patients were also asked to evaluate what they believed their oncologists thought about their prognosis.

Not only did two out of three patients hold substantially more optimistic ratings than their oncologist, but the vast majority did not realise their own rating actually differed at all from their doctor's.

The research indicated that this may be because most communications between doctors and patients are overly focused on maintaining a positive outlook, often at the cost of undermining opportunities for meaningful prognosis discussions as the illness progresses.

Dr Robert Gramling, chair of palliative medicine at the University of Vermont, said: "Our study reinforces the importance of clear and compassionate prognosis communication in advanced illness, but we must be aware that our data does not speak to what actually happens ... that leads to our observed differences in perceptions of prognosis."

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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