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Communication in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Unique Aspects of Communication with Cancer Patients


Another study [28] identified four patterns to describe how patients' emotional styles affected treatment decision making. These styles were labeled passive, avoidant, panicked, and rational. Passive decision makers allowed directive physicians to make treatment choices for them. They responded more to the caring attitude of their provider and the need to have someone to believe in rather than to an opportunity for autonomous decision making. Women with breast cancer using an avoidant style of decision making refused to actively confront their diagnosis or participate in planning their cancer treatment. Panicked patients were so fearful when confronted with a diagnosis of cancer that they could not participate in decision making, whereas rational decision makers were able to control strong feelings of fear and engage fully in decision making.[28] Results of another study found that whereas most well people preferred to play an active role in decision making, very sick people preferred the doctor to make decisions,[14] suggesting that seriously ill people may prefer a degree of paternalism in their care because an active role in decision making may take more physical and mental energy than these patients can afford. Alternatively, there may be a limit to the amount of negative and pessimistic information people can absorb before their capacity for coping is seriously compromised.[14]

Although the categorization of patients into various participation styles appears to offer some useful predictive power for defining communication patterns, the issues are complex. It has been suggested that to match the provision of information and support with the expressed needs of patients, patients should ideally be queried frequently about their needs.[14,29] Information and involvement preferences may also be responsive to factors such as changing disease status and the behavior of the physician during consultation.[28] Individualizing treatment discussions to patients' preferred decision-making styles rather than encouraging decision-making autonomy is likely to maximize outcomes for patients with cancer.[30]


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This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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