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Ten ways to improve cancer communication to patients

Explaining that cancer patients often lack the information required to make important decisions on screening, prevention and treatment, a University of Michigan bioethicist and colleagues have prepared a commentary outlining ten methods to improve patient-doctor communication and enchance patients' knowledge. The recommendations, designed to "improve the decision-making experience of patients," appear in the  Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Among them, as described in a release:

The researchers recommend that doctors use plain language to make their written and verbal materials more understandable and present only information that is relevant to patients. They also say the order of presenting types of information is important: citing the “recency effect,” which shows that patients better remember the most recent information presented to them.

Presenting information in terms of absolute risks (the specific chances of developing the disease under different circumstances) rather than relative risks (e.g., “50% greater risk”) is another strategy the researchers recommend. Research has shown that when relative risk is used, risk appears larger and treatments are viewed more favorably, which can inappropriately lead patients to choose treatments without enough empirical evidence behind their decisions, they write...

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