Palliative or curative treatment intent affects communication in radiation therapy consultations



Objective: To assess whether communication in radiotherapy consultations is affected by palliative or curative treatment intent.

Subjects and methods: The study involved 160 patients and 8 radiation oncologists. Eighty patients visited the radiation oncologist (RO) for palliative treatment and 80 for curative treatment. The consultation prior to radiation treatment was analyzed with the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS). Within three days, patients completed a quality of life questionnaire (EORTC-QLQ-C30).

Results: In palliative radiotherapy (PRT) consultations, ROs asked more (closed-ended) biomedical and psychosocial questions and provided more information on prognosis than in consultations for curative radiotherapy (CRT). Patients in both groups provided a great deal of psychosocial information but asked few questions. The ROs expressed more concerns in the PRT consultations, while patients did not. PRT patients received fewer supportive remarks than CRT patients. In both groups, explicit decision-making received little attention. Proxies who accompanied the patients took a more active role in PRT than in CRT consultations.

Conclusion: Communication in radiotherapy is affected by treatment intent with respect to the main contents of the consultation. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.