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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 66-72

Breaking bad news among cancer physicians


1 Comprehensive Cancer Center, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Pediatrics, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Sami Ayed Alshammary
King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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DOI: 10.4103/jhs.JHS_10_17

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Background: Breaking bad news to patients with cancer diagnosis is not an easy task for physicians. The diagnosis must be explicitly stated and understood, and prognosis must be well-discussed in the most gentle and comfortable manner. It is important that the disclosure is performed in a way that patients will not lose all hope and get very depressed, leading them to undergo an abrupt change of their outlook in life. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the physicians' perceptions and perspectives of breaking bad news to cancer patients. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of all comprehensive cancer centre physicians currently working in a university teaching hospital in the Middle East was conducted from August to September 2016. Results: Sixty-eight percent responded to the survey. Eighty-four percent were comfortable with breaking bad news, and 70% had training in breaking bad news. Eighty-six percent of responders stated that patients should be told about their cancer. Almost 30% of the respondents stated that they would still disclose the diagnosis to patients even if it would be against the preference of the relatives. Nearly 61% said that they would only tell the details to the patients if asked while 67% of them disagreed that patients should be told about the diagnoses only if the relatives consent. About 51% of physicians wanted to discuss the bad news with the family members and patient together, whereas 24% stated that the patient alone should be involved in the discussion. Conclusion: Physicians face a dilemma when families do not wish the patient to know the cancer diagnosis and this highlights the necessity of taking into consideration the social circumstances in healthcare. When taking these into considerations, curriculum in the medical school must, therefore, be updated and must integrate the acquisition of skills in breaking bad news early in training.


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