What oncologists tell patients about survival benefits of palliative chemotherapy and implications for informed consent: qualitative study

S Audrey, J Abel, JM Blazeby, S Falk, R Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Objective To examine how much oncologists tell patients about the survival benefit of palliative chemotherapy during consultations at which decisions about treatment are made. Design Qualitative study in which consultations were observed and digitally recorded. Setting Teaching hospital and district general hospital in south west England. Participants 37 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (n=12), pancreatic cancer (n=13), and colorectal cancer (n=12); and nine oncologists, including four consultants and five registrars. Main outcome measures All recordings were transcribed completely, anonymised, and electronically coded with ATLAS.ti. Constant comparison was used to identify themes and patterns. The framework method of data management, in which data were charted, was used to aid transparency of interpretation. Results During the consultations, information given to patients about survival benefit included numerical data ("about four weeks"), an idea of timescales ("a few months extra"), vague references ("buy you some time"), or no mention at all. In most consultations (26/37) discussion of survival benefit was vague or non-existent. Conclusions Most patients were not given clear information about the survival gain of palliative chemotherapy. To aid decision making and informed consent, we recommend that oncologists sensitively describe the benefits and limitations of this treatment, including survival gain.
Translated title of the contributionWhat oncologists tell patients about survival benefits of palliative chemotherapy and implications for informed consent: qualitative study
Original languageEnglish
Article numbera752
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ
Volume337
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2008

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