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J Clin Oncol. 2013 Sep 10;31(26):3242-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.45.5865. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Explicit prognostic information and reassurance about nonabandonment when entering palliative breast cancer care: findings from a scripted video-vignette study.

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  • 1Liesbeth M. van Vliet and Jozien M. Bensing, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL); Elsken van der Wall, Nicole M. Plum, and Jozien M. Bensing, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands.



When discussing the transition to palliative care for patients with breast cancer, oncologists have to find a balance between giving explicit information while not overwhelming patients and being realistic while remaining hopeful. It is unclear whether patients prefer more or less explicit prognostic information, and reassuring patients that they will not be abandoned may provide realistic hope. We assessed the effect of explicit prognostic information and reassurance about nonabandonment at the transition to palliative care.


An experimental 2 × 2 study was used. Four scripted videos of a bad news conversation were created that differed only in the level of "explicitness of prognosis" and "reassurance about nonabandonment" (high v low). Patients with and survivors of breast cancer (n = 51) and healthy women (n = 53) watched the video-vignettes. The effects of the different communications on participants' anxiety, uncertainty, self-efficacy, and satisfaction were assessed by using multilevel analyses that explored the moderating influences of monitoring/blunting scores.


The highly explicit/highly reassuring video yielded the most positive outcomes, and the less explicit/less reassuring video, the most negative (P ≤ .05 for all outcome measures except anxiety). The main effects found were that explicitness and reassurance decreased participants' uncertainty (P < .001 and P = .002, respectively) and anxiety (only after reassurance; P = .001) while increasing self-efficacy (P = .004 and P < .001, respectively) and satisfaction (P < .001 and P < .001, respectively). High monitors seemed least positive, mainly following explicitness.


Explicit prognostic information may lead to better outcomes than general information. In addition, reassurance about nonabandonment might provide realistic hope but should be lived up to. More research is needed to translate these findings into clinical care.

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