Breaking bad news issues: A survey among radiation oncologists

  • Pandit S
  • Sharma D
  • Verma A
 et al. 
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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Discussion of bad news and resuscitation in terminal cancer is an important but difficult and often neglected issue in day-to-day oncology practice.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We interviewed 35 radiation oncologists using an indigenous 15-item questionnaire on their beliefs about breaking bad news and resuscitation to terminal cancer patients.

RESULTS: Most responders had an oncology experience of three to seven years (20/35). Thirty-two were comfortable discussing cancer diagnosis, prognosis and life expectancy-related issues. A similar number believed all cancer-related information should be disclosed, while only four believed in imparting all information in one visit. All agreed that disclosing sensitive information did not affect survival. When requested by relatives to withhold truth from patients, 11 said they would not comply, 22 agreed to tell the truth only if asked and two agreed to avoid difficult questions. Twenty responders denied having been adequately trained in breaking bad news and were keen on dedicated classes or sessions in this area of practice. Most (33/35) believed that Indian patients were keen on knowing their diagnosis and prognosis. Although all agreed to the importance of discussing resuscitation, only 17 believed patients should be involved. Majority (20/35) agreed that the issue needs to be discussed while the patient was conscious. Patients with unsalvageable disease were deemed unsuitable for aggressive resuscitation by 30 responders while the rest believed it should be offered to all. Most (21/35) admitted to feeling depressed after breaking bad news though only seven felt disclosure was more stressful than untruthful statements. Only four knew of a law regarding resuscitation in cancer.

CONCLUSION: Observing the widely varied beliefs and practices for disclosing bad news, it is recommended that such training be a regular part of medicine curriculum, especially in the Oncology setting.

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Authors

  • Subhas Pandit

  • DN Sharma

  • ArunK Verma

  • GK Rath

  • Sushma Bhatnagar

  • Milind Kumar

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