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Communication About Prognosis With Adolescent and Young Adult Patients With Cancer: Information Needs, Prognostic Awareness, and Outcomes of Disclosure

Journal title
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
Publication year
Mack, J. W.; Fasciano, K. M.; Block, S. D.

Purpose Communication about prognosis affects decisions patients and family members make about cancer care, and most patients say they want to know about their chances of cure. We sought to evaluate experiences with prognosis communication among adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer. Patients and Methods We surveyed 203 AYAs with cancer age 15 to 29 years (response rate, 74%) treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and their oncologists. Patients were approached within 6 weeks of diagnosis and asked to report on their prognosis communication preferences and experiences, their beliefs about likelihood of cure, and psychosocial outcomes of communication, such as trust (using an item from the Trust in Physician Scale), peace of mind (using select items from the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being Scale), and anxiety and depression (using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale). Oncologists were asked to report the patient’s likelihood of cure. Results Most patients (83%, 167 of 203 patients) considered prognostic information to be extremely or very important. Patients who reported having received more extensive prognostic disclosure had higher odds of trust in the oncologist (odds ratio [OR], 1.30; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.67; P = .05), peace of mind (OR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.29 to 3.51; P = .002), and hope related to physician communication (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.59; P = .04), after adjusting for patient sex, age, race or ethnicity, prognosis, and diagnosis. Disclosure was also associated with lower distress related to knowing about prognosis (OR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.44 to 0.95; P = .03). However, a majority of patients (62%) reported prognostic estimates that exceeded those reported by physicians (McNemar P < .001). Conclusion Most AYAs with cancer value receiving prognostic information, which is positively associated with aspects of well-being. However, most overestimate chances of cure relative to oncologists, highlighting the importance of efforts to improve communication with this young population.

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