Cancer patients seek honesty

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 11 May 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1184

Patients with cancer in Britain would like to be given more information about their cancer and its treatment, a study has shown. Virtually all the participants in the research, carried out by the National Cancer Alliance, said that they had not been given enough information—some felt that information was being deliberately withheld.

The research, in the form of 12 focus groups with a total of 75 patients, was undertaken after the chief medical officer's expert advisory group on cancer said that cancer services should take account of the views of patients and their carers.

The study shows that patients want doctors to be “sensitive, gentle and honest” but not to be afraid to use the word cancer. In particular, one participant said: “I'd like a bit of honesty about the treatment, what it involves, how successful it is.… I'd like more information so that I could decide, and I'll take the responsibility for that if I snuff it in five years.”

There was also a strong emphasis from participants on being given time to take stock. They approved of speed when it came to initial investigations, hospital appointments, and diagnostic tests. But time should be offered to patients to come to terms with diagnosis and to consider treatment options.

The key concern of all patients was clearly one of survival, the study says. But some patients “were perplexed about unexplained differences between the treatments they had received and those of other patients with what seemed to be similar, or exactly the same disease.”—CLAUDIA COURT, BMJ

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