RESEARCH QUESTION: How does the process of engagement and integration of sources of information outside patient-physician interaction affect how individuals with cancer interpret their treatment experience and prognosis?
BACKGROUND: Studies of patient-physician communication of prognosis in oncology highlight areas where misunderstanding occurs: understanding consequences of treatment, likelihood of treatment success, probability of cure, status/progression of illness, and prognosis. Theories proposing mechanisms that underlie this discrepancy cannot account for all instances of misunderstanding, including when complete and direct physician disclosure occurs. Prior research focused on patient-physician communication event(s) and immediate antecedents and consequences. However, less is known about what happens to information once it has been communicated and how a patient's process to interpret the meaning of their experience affects their understanding of it. Our study explores this question by examining patient communication with sources of information other than treating physicians.
METHODOLOGY: We conducted 10 semi-structured qualitative interviews with individuals diagnosed with 4 types of cancer at different stages. The interviews were analyzed using inductive qualitative analysis.
RESULTS: Participants in our sample consulted a variety of additional sources to give context and understanding to their communicated prognosis. These were important contributors to how they understood their prognosis and incorporated that understanding. They included family, friends/acquaintances, cancer survivors, support/survivor groups, secondary health-care staff, and relevant informational materials. Different motivations for seeking out these sources were also expressed. Participants expressed a link between their understanding of their prognosis and the variety of outside sources they enlisted for input and support.
BACKGROUND: In cancer communication, patients and physicians often understand a patient's experience and situation differently. This can negatively impact health outcomes and the physician-patient relationship.
AIM: To explore how cancer patients' interpretations of the physician's role as information giver affect the communication relationship with the physician and their information-seeking behavior regarding different aspects of their cancer care.
DESIGN: Participants completed a semistructured qualitative interview addressing their treatment experience and communication with their physician. Interviews were coded and analyzed using inductive thematic analysis.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Ten patients with cancer treated at a regional cancer center in central Illinois participated in the study. Cancer stages I to IV and 4 cancer types were represented.
RESULTS: Participants' orientations to the relationship with their physician (and their information-seeking behavior) were classified into 4 general categories: (1) "questioners" have a general mistrust toward their physicians and the information doctors are giving; (2) "the undecided" focuses on physician "fit," often requiring time to step away in order to make decisions and process information; (3) "cross-checkers" are concerned with content of their treatment protocol, often double-checking the treatment plan; and (4) "the experience-oriented" feel a gap between their experience and their physician's experience (and perspective), often seeking information from other survivors. All categories described a perceived lack of adequate exchange of information and the need to seek information outside of the physician-patient relationship to compensate.
CONCLUSION: Participants exhibited different information-seeking behaviors based on how they interpreted the role of their physician as information giver. This affected what kind of information they sought and how they understood the information received, which in turn affected understanding of their broader experience and care.