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Ann Oncol. 1999 Jan;10(1):39-46.

Misunderstanding in cancer patients: why shoot the messenger?

Author information

1
Medical Psychology Unit, University of Sydney, Australia. medpsych@mail.usyd.edu.au

Abstract

AIM:

We aimed to document the prevalence of misunderstanding in cancer patients and investigate whether patient denial is related to misunderstanding.

PATIENTS AND METHODS:

Two hundred forty-four adult cancer outpatients receiving treatment completed a survey assessing levels of understanding and denial. Doctors provided the facts against which patient responses were compared. Multiple logistic regression analyses determined the predictors of misunderstanding.

RESULTS:

Most patients understood the extent of their disease (71%, 95% CI: 65%-77%) and goal of treatment (60%, 95% CI: 54%-67%). Few correctly estimated the likelihood of treatment achieving cure (18%, 95% CI: 13%-23%), prolongation of life (13%, 95% CI: 8%-17%) and palliation (18%, 95% CI: 10%-27%). Patient denial predicted misunderstanding of the probability that treatment would cure disease when controlling for other patient and disease variables (OR = 2.20, 95% CI: 0.99-4.88, P = 0.05). Patient ratings of the clarity of information received were also predictive of patient understanding.

CONCLUSIONS:

Patient denial appears to produce misunderstanding, however, doctors' ability to communicate effectively is also implicated. The challenge that oncologists face is how to communicate information in a manner which is both responsive to patients' emotional status and sufficiently informative to allow informed decision-making to take place.

PMID:
10076720
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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