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Communication in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Overview

Communication between clinicians and patients is a multidimensional concept and involves the content of dialogue, the affective component (i.e., what happens emotionally to the physician and patient during the encounter), and nonverbal behaviors.

In oncology, communication skills are a key to achieving the important goals of the clinical encounter.[1] These goals include the following:[2,3,4]

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  • Establishing trust and rapport.
  • Gathering information from the patient and the patient's family.
  • Giving bad news and other information about the illness.
  • Addressing patient emotions.
  • Eliciting concerns.

Effective and supportive communication can assist the patient and his or her family in navigating a successful transition to palliative care.[5] Moreover, the need for truly informed consent and the patient's right to health care information and compassionate care create ethical, legal, and humanistic mandates for competency in oncology communication.[6]

In this summary, unless otherwise stated, evidence and practice issues as they relate to adults are discussed. The evidence and application to practice related to children may differ significantly from information related to adults. When specific information about the care of children is available, it is summarized under its own heading.

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for U.S. supportive and palliative care trials about communication intervention that are now accepting participants. The list of trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

References:

  1. Levy MH: Doctor-patient communication: the lifeline to comprehensive cancer care. In: Perry MC, ed.: American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book: Thirty-Fourth Annual Meeting, Spring 1998. Alexandria, Va: American Society of Clinical Oncology, 1998, pp 195-202.
  2. Parle M, Jones B, Maguire P: Maladaptive coping and affective disorders among cancer patients. Psychol Med 26 (4): 735-44, 1996.
  3. Roberts CS, Cox CE, Reintgen DS, et al.: Influence of physician communication on newly diagnosed breast patients' psychologic adjustment and decision-making. Cancer 74 (1 Suppl): 336-41, 1994.
  4. Buckman R: Communications and emotions. BMJ 325 (7366): 672, 2002.
  5. Detmar SB, Muller MJ, Schornagel JH, et al.: Role of health-related quality of life in palliative chemotherapy treatment decisions. J Clin Oncol 20 (4): 1056-62, 2002.
  6. Baile WF: Communication competency in oncology: legal, ethical and humanistic imperatives. [Abstract] Psychooncology 15 (Suppl 2): A-13, S6, 2006.

    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: May 28, 2015
    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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