What surgeons tell patients and what patients want to know before major cancer surgery: a qualitative study

McNair, A.G.K. et al. BMC Cancer2016 16:258.

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Background: 
The information surgeons impart to patients and information patients want about surgery for cancer is important but rarely examined. This study explored information provided by surgeons and patient preferences for information in consultations in which surgery for oesophageal cancer surgery was discussed.

Methods: Pre-operation consultations in which oesophagectomy was discussed were studied in three United Kingdom hospitals and patients were subsequently interviewed. Consultations and interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed in full and anonymized. Interviews elicited views about the information provided by surgeons and patients’ preferences for information. Thematic analysis of consultation-interview pairs was used to investigate similarities and differences in the information provided by surgeons and desired by patients.

Results: Fifty two audio-recordings from 31 patients and 7 surgeons were obtained (25 consultations and 27 patient interviews). Six consultations were not recorded because of equipment failure and four patients declined an interview. Surgeons all provided consistent, extensive information on technical operative details and in-hospital surgical risks. Consultations rarely included discussion of the longer-term outcomes of surgery. Whilst patients accepted that information about surgery and risks was necessary, they really wanted details about long-term issues including recovery, impact on quality of life and survival.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated a need for surgeons to provide information of importance to patients concerning the longer term outcomes of surgery. It is proposed that “core information sets” are developed, based on surgeons’ and patients’ views, to use as a minimum in consultations to initiate discussion and meet information needs prior to cancer surgery.

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