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J Public Health Med. 2001 Sep;23(3):227-34.

Effective methods of giving information in cancer: a systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials.

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Department of Palliative Care and Policy, GKT School of Medicine and St Christopher's Hospice, London.


There is increasing evidence to suggest that patients with cancer require more information about their disease and its consequences than they receive. In an attempt to address these needs, a variety of methods have been used to facilitate the passage of information from health professionals and other cancer information sources to cancer patients and their families. These include written material, telephone help-lines, teaching and audiovisual aids. Although these efforts have been well received, little attention has been given to the effectiveness of the methods employed. The aims of this paper were to systematically review randomized controlled trials that have evaluated methods of information-giving to cancer patients and their families. Relevant literature was identified through computerized databases, Internet cancer sites and bibliography searches. Multiple reviewers independently analysed the methodological quality of the papers according to agreed criteria. From this process, 10 studies were identified. Interventions ranged from written information to audiotapes, audiovisual aids and interactive medium. Individually tailored methods such as patient care records and patient educational programmes were also reviewed. The evidence indicated that the interventions had positive effects on a number of patient outcomes, such as knowledge and recall, symptom management, satisfaction, preferences, health care utilization and affective states. This was above and beyond the usual care provision. In the majority of studies the interventions had no effect on psychological indices. Furthermore, the review highlighted that certain methods should be based on individual preferences for information rather than uniformly administered.

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