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Psychooncology. 1999 Mar-Apr;8(2):155-66.

Cancer patients' coping styles and doctor-patient communication.

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  • 1Department of Medical Psychology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. L.M.Ong@AMC.UVA.NL


Monitoring and blunting styles have become relevant concepts regarding their potential impact on patients' and doctors' behaviors. The present study aimed at investigating the relation between cancer patients' coping styles and doctor-patient communication and global affect. Coping styles were assessed by means of the Threatening Medical Situations Inventory (TMSI). Since a shortened version of the TMSI was used, the validity of this instrument was also evaluated. First, it was examined whether the two factor structure of the original TMSI could be confirmed in our version. Then, the relation between coping style and patients' preferences for information and participation in decision-making was evaluated. Second, the relation between monitoring and blunting and patients' age, sex, education, quality of life and prognosis was investigated. Finally, the relation between patients' coping styles and communicative behaviors and global affect of both patients and physicians during the initial oncological consultation was examined. Patients (N = 123) visited their gynaecologist or medical oncologist for an initial discussion of possible treatment. Patients' coping styles, socio-demographics, preference for information and participation in decision-making, quality of life and prognosis were assessed by postal questionnaire prior to the visit to the outpatient clinic. The consultation was audiotaped and analysed according to Roter's Interaction Analysis System, to identify instrumental and affective communicative behaviors of both patients and physicians. The two factor structure of the TMSI could be confirmed. A monitoring style was related to a preference for detailed information (r = 0.23) and participation in medical decision-making (r = 0.23). A monitoring style was also related to patient question-asking (r = 0.25) and patient dominance (r = 0.23). To conclude, the validity of the shortened TMSI is satisfactory. Also, cancer patients' coping styles are not related to other personal and disease characteristics. Further, a monitoring style seems to have an impact on patients' question-asking and dominance during the oncological consultation.

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