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Better chemo counselling needed

1st August 2008

Research carried out by Bristol University has shown doctors are not giving patients who have terminal cancer "precise" data about receiving more chemotherapy.

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Two-thirds of patients said they were not given any data or were only promised "extra time" with the people they cared about.

The survey's focus was on 37 patients who had terminal colorectal, lung and pancreatic cancer.

The patients were interviewed by a researcher in advance of a consultation with their oncologist. The consultation itself was then monitored by the researcher.

Of the 37 patients, six were told how much longer chemotherapy could prolong their lives and five were offered "a slightly less precise idea".

The rest of the patients were not given an idea of how long they could expect or were only offered "vague" information.

They wrote: "Giving comprehensible and appropriate information about survival benefits is extremely difficult - however, the reluctance to address these difficulties and sensitivities may be hampering patients' ability to make informed decisions about their future treatment."

Professor Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "I'd like all patients with incurable cancer to have the information they need to make a decision about whether to have this treatment."

The survey was funded by Cancer Research UK. A spokesman for the charity said the study showed more investigation was necessary in order to comprehend patient wishes and the decisions made by doctors in complex circumstances.

 

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