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Addressing challenges in information-provision: a qualitative study among oncologists and women with advanced breast cancer.

Vliet, L.M. van, Meijers, M.C., Dulmen, S. van, Wall, E. van der, Plum, N., Stouthard, J., Francke, A.L. Addressing challenges in information-provision: a qualitative study among oncologists and women with advanced breast cancer. BMC Palliative Care: 2021, 20(1), Art. nr. 142
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Background
There is a need for more insight into how to address challenges of information-provision for women with advanced breast cancer. We aimed to explore oncologists’ and patients’ views on (i) the challenges of information-provision, and (ii) possible strategies to address these challenges, meanwhile (iii) exploring the possible facilitating role of positive expectations and empathy.

Methods
Semi-structured interviews were held with oncologists (n = 10) and women with advanced breast cancer (n = 14). Principles of Thematic Analysis were followed, with two researchers analyzing transcribed data, supported by Atlas.ti software.

Results
Taken together the data from oncologists and patients, we found that when communicating with patients with advanced cancer, oncologists face challenges, including handling patients’ unrealistic disease (status) beliefs, and choosing approaches for discussing available treatment options and their side effects. Possible strategies to address these challenges include balancing information with acceptance of denial, and using medical expertise to guide treatment discussions. A sensitive issue is whether to discuss the option of no anti-cancer treatment. Meanwhile, approaches and preferences for discussions of side effects vary. Positive expectations and empathy can facilitate information-provision by creating space and helping patients to open up more.

Conclusions
Integrating oncologists’ and patients’ views, oncologists can provide realistic information while also, temporarily, accepting denial, and can use their medical expertise to address challenges around unrealistic beliefs and discussion of treatment options. Finding ways to tailor discussions of no anti-cancer treatment and side-effect information are needed. Positive expectations and empathy might facilitate – tailored – information-provision, leading ultimately to patient-centered care lying at the heart of medicine.