What doctors tell patients with breast cancer about diagnosis and treatment: Findings from a study in general hospitals

A. Liberati, R. Fossati, R. Talamini

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In a study aimed at assessing whether and how patients with breast cancer are informed on their diagnosis and treatment a large group of physicians participating in a quality of care evaluation program were asked to report what they told patients about diagnosis and treatment. The completeness of such communication was then assessed using an explicit protocol designed to measure precision and lack of ambiguity of reported phrases. By this measure 39% patients received 'thorough' information on diagnosis and 11% 'detailed' information on surgery. These proportions became 48% and 14%, respectively, when only cases for whom answers were available are considered. Physicians, however, considered this communication 'thorough' for 69% of patients. Among patient-related characteristics, age, education and stage of disease were independent predictors of quality of information. Setting-dependent features more than individual provider attitudes seemed to account for at least part of the quality of information sharing behaviour as both hospital size (comparing centres larger than 500 beds and smaller ones) and degree of hospital organization (comparing centres adhering to the Italian Breast Cancer Task Force, FONCaM and those not) were - simultaneously - significant predictors of quality of communication, independently from patients' case-mix. Physicians' judgement - measured assuming the explicit protocol as standard - proved to be of acceptable sensitivity only when information was 'Thorough' by the protocol. However, its specificity and predictive values were consistently low in all three categories defined by the protocol, leading to high misclassification rates. The implications of these findings for studies aimed at assessing the quality of patients-providers communication are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-326
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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