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      Communication Needs of Cancer Patients and/or Caregivers: A Critical Literature Review


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          Effective communication for cancer patients and/or caregivers can meet information needs, reduce caregiver burden, improve physical and mental health, and promote intimacy. The aim of this review was to identify the communication needs of cancer patients and/or caregivers and to explore their specific communication needs to guide the development of future communication interventions.


          Chinese and English databases were systematically searched from January 2010 to October 2019, including MEDLINE, CINAHL, PubMed, and the China Academic Journal Full-text Database. The key search terms used were “cancer” or “carcinoma” or “oncology” AND “patient” or “caregiver” or “carer” AND “communication” or “discussion” or “talk” AND “need” or “needs” or “desire.”.


          A total of 26 articles was identified and included in this review. The findings revealed the needs of cancer patients and/or caregivers in terms of communication target, content, style, timing, and preferences. Communication targets included health professionals, peers, caregivers, and patients. Communication content included illness-related, emotional support, daily life, sexuality, death, and a way to communicate with health professionals. Communication style needed to be expressed through such things as language and communication atmosphere. Communication timing mainly referred to before treatment and approaching death. Communication preferences were related to factors such as demographics and ethnic origin.


          Cancer patients and/or caregivers have different communication needs in terms of target, content, style, and communication timing. A better understanding of the unique communication needs of patients and/or caregivers will offer health professionals detailed information on designing appropriate interventions to support cancer patients and caregivers.

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          Most cited references53

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          Improving the content validity of the mixed methods appraisal tool: a modified e-Delphi study

          The mixed methods appraisal tool (MMAT) was developed for critically appraising different study designs. This study aimed to improve the content validity of three of the five categories of studies in the MMAT by identifying relevant methodological criteria for appraising the quality of qualitative, survey, and mixed methods studies.
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            A systematic review of prognostic/end-of-life communication with adults in the advanced stages of a life-limiting illness: patient/caregiver preferences for the content, style, and timing of information.

            Evidence-based recommendations concerning how to discuss dying, life expectancy, and likely future symptoms with patients with a limited life expectancy and their families are lacking. The aim of this systematic review was to review studies regarding prognostic/end-of-life communication with adult patients in the advanced stages of a life-limiting illness and their caregivers. Relevant studies meeting the inclusion criteria were identified by searching computerized databases up to November 2004. One hundred twenty-three studies met the criteria for the full review, and 46 articles reported on patient/caregiver preferences for content, style, and timing of information. The majority of the research was descriptive. Although there were individual differences, patients/caregivers in general had high levels of information need at all stages of the disease process regarding the illness itself, likely future symptoms and their management, and life expectancy and information about clinical treatment options. Patient and caregiver information needs showed a tendency to diverge as the illness progressed, with caregivers needing more and patients wanting less information. Patients and caregivers preferred a trusted health professional who showed empathy and honesty, encouraged questions, and clarified each individual's information needs and level of understanding. In general, most patients/caregivers wanted at least some discussion of these topics at the time of diagnosis of an advanced, progressive, life-limiting illness, or shortly after. However, they wanted to negotiate the content and extent of this information.
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              The communication goals and needs of cancer patients: a review.

              The aim of this review paper is to critique the empirical literature pertaining to the communication needs and goals of cancer patients, and to provide direction for research in this area. According to the conceptual framework of Feldman-Stewart et al., patient-physician communication occurs for the fundamental purpose of addressing each participant's goal(s). This review is divided into two categories of goals: (a) optimal medical management of the cancer, and (b) optimal attention to the patient's psychosocial response to cancer. Optimal medical management includes discussions about disease status and the treatment plan, and the effectiveness of these discussions is frequently determined by assessing patient understanding, satisfaction, and well-being. The literature suggests that cancer patients continue to have unmet communication needs, and communication outcomes are enhanced when physicians attend to the emotional needs of patients. Research gaps in communication research are highlighted, including the need for additional study of several external factors affecting the patient and provider. Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

                Author and article information

                J Oncol
                J Oncol
                Journal of Oncology
                7 May 2020
                : 2020
                : 7432849
                1Wuxi Medical School, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China
                2Wuxi People's Hospital, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China
                Author notes

                Academic Editor: Giandomenico Roviello

                Author information
                Copyright © 2020 Jieyu Li et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 20 January 2020
                : 13 March 2020
                : 21 April 2020
                Funded by: National Natural Science Foundation of China
                Award ID: 81773297
                Review Article

                Oncology & Radiotherapy
                Oncology & Radiotherapy


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