Jennifer Mack, MD
Physicians who inform parents of children with cancer about the
likely course of the disease can provide hope, even when the child's
prognosis is poor, according to a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study
presented at a press briefing at the American Society of Clinical
Oncology annual meeting.
"Previous studies suggest that physicians are reluctant to give
prognostic information, out of fear that it will destroy hope," said
Jennifer Mack, MD, the study's lead author. "Strikingly, we found that
honest communication of prognostic information can actually help parents
to feel more hopeful, not less."
The researchers sought to determine whether there is any validity to
the view that withholding prognostic information, in cases where the
medical outlook for a child is poor, can help sustain parents' hopes.
Few previous studies have explored the relationship between prognostic
disclosure and hope in this setting.
The researchers surveyed 194 parents of children with cancer in their
first year of treatment and the children's physicians. They assessed
whether there was any connection between parents' recall of prognostic
information conveyed by the physician and the extent to which they felt
such communication "always" made them feel hopeful.
They found that parents who reported receiving extensive prognostic
information were also more likely to report that physician communication
made them feel hopeful, even when the prognosis was poor.
The lead author of the research is Jane Weeks, MD, of Dana-Farber.
Co-authors include Joanne Wolfe, MD, and Holcombe Grier, MD, of
Dana-Farber and Paul Cleary, PhD, and E. Francis Cook, ScD, of the
Harvard School of Public Health.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org)
is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is
among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.
It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center
(DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National