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J Cancer Educ. 2018 Feb 5. doi: 10.1007/s13187-017-1315-3. [Epub ahead of print]

Oncologists and Breaking Bad News-From the Informed Patients' Point of View. The Evaluation of the SPIKES Protocol Implementation.

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Wroclaw Medical University, Wybrzeże L. Pasteura 1, 50-367, Wrocław, Poland.
Department of Oncology, Division of Surgical Oncology, Wroclaw Medical University, pl. Hirszfelda 12, 53-413, Wrocław, Poland.
1st Department of Surgical Oncology, Lower Silesian Cancer Center, pl. Hirszfelda 12, 53-413, Wrocław, Poland.


The way that bad news is disclosed to a cancer patient has a crucial impact on physician-patient cooperation and trust. Consensus-based guidelines provide widely accepted tools for disclosing unfavorable information. In oncology, the most popular one is called the SPIKES protocol. A 17-question survey was administered to a group of 226 patients with cancer (mean age 59.6 years) in order to determine a level of SPIKES implementation during first cancer disclosure. In our assessment, the patients felt that the highest compliance with the SPIKES protocol was with Setting up (70.6%), Knowledge (72.8%), and Emotions (75.3%). The lowest was with the Perception (27.7%), Invitation (30.4%), and Strategy & Summary (56.9%) parts. There could be improvement with each aspect of the protocol, but especially in Perception, Invitation, and Strategy & Summary. The latter is really important and must be done better. Older patients felt the doctors' language was more comprehensible (r = 0.17; p = 0.011). Patients' satisfaction of their knowledge about the disease and follow-up, regarded as an endpoint, was insufficient. Privacy was important in improving results (p < 0.01). In practice, the SPIKES protocol is implemented in a satisfactory standard, but it can be improved in each area, especially in Perception, Invitation, and Summary. It is suggested that more training should be done in undergraduate and graduate medical education and the effectiveness of the disclosure continue to be evaluated and improved.


Breaking bad news; Cancer; Information; Patient’s education; SPIKES protocol implementation

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