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

Good communication between patients, family caregivers, and the health care team is very important in cancer care.

Good communication between patients with cancer, family caregivers, and the health care team helps improve patients' well-being and quality of life. Communicating about concerns and decision making is important during all phases of treatment and supportive care for cancer.

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The goals of good communication in cancer care are to:

  • Build a trusting relationship between the patient, family caregivers, and the health care team.
  • Help the patient, family caregivers, and health care team share information with each other.
  • Help the patient and family talk about feelings and concerns.

Patients with cancer have special communication needs.

Patients, their families, and their health care team face many issues when cancer is diagnosed. Cancer is a life-threatening illness, even though advances in treatments have increased the chances of a cure or remission. A patient who is diagnosed with cancer may feel fear and anxiety about treatments that are often difficult, expensive, and complicated. Decisions about the patient's care can be very hard to make. Good communication can help patients, families, and doctors make these decisions together and improve the patient's well-being and quality of life.

Studies show that when patients and doctors communicate well during cancer care, there are many positive results. Patients are usually:

  • More satisfied with care and feel more in control.
  • More likely to follow through with treatment.
  • More informed.
  • More likely to take part in a clinical trial.
  • Better able to make the change from care that is given to treat the cancer to palliative care.

Some patients and families want a lot of information and choose to make decisions about care.

Patients and their families should let the health care team know how much information they want about the cancer and its treatment. Some patients and families want a lot of detailed information. Others want less detail. Also, the need for information may change as the patient moves through diagnosis and treatment. Some patients with advanced disease want less information about their condition.

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