How Are You Feeling? Who Wants To Know? Patients’ and Oncologists’ Preferences for Discussing Health-Related Quality-of-Life Issues
PURPOSE: This study investigated (1) the attitudes of cancer patients toward discussing health-related quality-of-life (HRQL) issues; (2) the association between such attitudes and patients’ characteristics; and (3) oncologists’ attitudes and self-reported behavior regarding these same issues.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Two hundred seventy-three patients receiving palliative chemotherapy and ten physicians were asked to complete a series of questionnaires.
RESULTS: Almost all patients wanted to discuss their physical symptoms and physical functioning and were also willing to address their emotional functioning and daily activities. However, 25% of the patients were only willing to discuss these latter two issues at the initiative of their physician. Patients varied most in their willingness to discuss their family and social life, with 20% reporting no interest in discussing these issues at all. Female patients were more reluctant to discuss various HRQL issues than male patients. Older and less well-educated patients were more likely to prefer that their physician initiate discussion of HRQL issues. All physicians considered it to be primarily their task to discuss the physical aspects of their patients’ health, whereas four physicians indicated that discussion of psychosocial issues was a task to be shared with other health care providers. All physicians indicated that they generally defer to their patients in initiating discussion of psychosocial issues.
CONCLUSION: Although both patients and oncologists seem willing to discuss a wide range of HRQL issues, communication regarding psychosocial issues may be hampered by competing expectations as to who should take the lead in initiating such discussions.
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