Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Communication in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - The Role of Family Caregivers

Family caregivers are partners in communication.

Families can help patients make better decisions about their cancer care. Patients and their family members can join together as partners to communicate with the doctor and health care team. When possible, patients should decide how much help they want from family members when making decisions. Communication between family caregivers and the health care team should continue throughout cancer care. It should include information about the goals of treatment, plans for the patient's care, and what to expect over time.

Recommended Related to Cancer

Ewing Sarcoma: Metastatic Tumors

Metastases at diagnosis are detected in approximately 25% of patients.[1] The prognosis of patients with metastatic disease is poor. Current therapies for patients who present with metastatic disease achieve 6-year event-free survival (EFS) of approximately 28% and overall survival (OS) of approximately 30%.[2,3] For patients with lung/pleural metastases only, 6-year EFS is approximately 40% when utilizing bilateral lung irradiation.[2,4] In contrast, patients with bone/bone marrow metastases have...

Read the Ewing Sarcoma: Metastatic Tumors article > >

Communication with the doctor helps caregivers as well as patients.

Communication that includes the patient and family is called family-centered communication. Family-centered communication with the doctor helps the family understand its role in caregiving. Family caregivers who get specific and practical direction from the health care team are more confident about giving care. When caregivers receive this help, they can give the patient better care.

Language and culture can affect communication.

Communication can be more difficult if the doctor does not speak the same language as the patient and family, or if there are cultural differences. Every patient with cancer has the right to get clear information about the diagnosis and treatment so he or she can take full part in making decisions. Most medical centers have trained interpreters or have other ways to help with language differences.

If cultural beliefs will affect decisions about treatment and care, the health care team should be told about these beliefs. For example, a common Western belief is that an informed patient should make the final decision about cancer care.

There may be problems with communication.

There are many things that can block communication between the patient and doctor. This can happen if:

  • The patient does not fully understand all the facts about treatment.
  • The medical information is not given in a way the patient can understand.
  • The patient believes the doctor will tell them the important facts about treatment and doesn't ask questions.
  • The patient is afraid to ask too many questions.
  • The patient is afraid to take too much of the doctor's time and doesn't ask questions.

Family caregivers can sometimes help when communication problems come up.

For more information see the PDQ summary Family Caregivers in Cancer.

1

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 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.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
A common one in both men and women.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Do you know the symptoms?
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article