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17.10.2016 | Original Article | Ausgabe 3/2017

Supportive Care in Cancer 3/2017

Communication preferences of pediatric cancer patients: talking about prognosis and their future life

Supportive Care in Cancer > Ausgabe 3/2017
Sarah R. Brand, Karen Fasciano, Jennifer W. Mack



The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthcare providers communicate information to patients in a truthful and developmentally appropriate manner. However, there is limited guidance about how to translate these recommendations into clinical practice. The aim of this study was to explore how young cancer patients experienced communication around their illness, especially communication about possible outcomes from disease or treatment.


Participants included young people ages 8 to under 18 years with cancer (N = 16). Semi-structured interviews focused on their expectations about the future, the process of information exchange, and their preferences for communication within the pediatric oncology setting.


Overall, participants wanted medical information to be provided to them by their healthcare providers and wanted to be direct participants in medical conversations. However, many participants displayed some ambivalence or conveyed conflicting wishes for prognostic information. For example, some participants reported that they were satisfied with what they knew, but later raised lingering questions. While not the focus of the study, almost every participant discussed social concerns as a key concern for their present and future life.


While most pediatric cancer patients want to be involved in conversations about their cancer care, including conversations about prognosis, this is an individual and sometimes fluctuating decision, and healthcare providers should be encouraged to discuss preferences for involvement with patients and families. This study highlights the importance of understanding the developmental factors that make pediatric patients unique, especially with regard to their patterns of communication.

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