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Psychooncology. 2013 Sep;22(9):2046-50. doi: 10.1002/pon.3258. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

Do healthcare professionals discuss the emotional impact of cancer with patients?

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Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.



It is known that cancer may affect patients' emotions and their relationships with other people and that those with strong emotional support may enjoy improved outcomes. We sought to determine the frequency with which healthcare professionals discuss the impact of cancer on patients' emotions and relationships with others.


Data regarding healthcare professionals' discussions of the emotional impact of cancer and relevant covariates were obtained from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Statistical analyses were performed using sudaan software (Research Triangle Institute, Raleigh, NC, USA).


Of the 2074 people with a prior diagnosis of cancer surveyed, 701 (33.8%) claimed that a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional had discussed with them 'how cancer could affect their emotions or relationships with others'. Of these, 586 (84.5%) reported that they were 'very satisfied' with how well their emotional and social needs were met; 73.4% of those who had not had this discussion reported being very satisfied. Patients with leukemia/lymphoma, younger patients, African Americans, and those with a lower degree of education were most likely to report having discussions about emotional issues. Gender was not correlated with these discussions (30.6% in men vs. 33.3% in women). On multivariate analysis, age, race, and cancer type remained independent significant predictors of having a discussion regarding the emotional impact of cancer.


Only a third of cancer patients discussed the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis with their healthcare professional. Age, race, and type of malignancy affect the likelihood of having these discussions.


cancer; communication; emotional impact; healthcare professionals; oncology; social impact

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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