Effective communication skills are the key to good cancer care

Eur J Cancer. 1999 Oct;35(11):1592-7. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(99)00212-9.


Communication within oncology is a core clinical skill but one in which few oncologists or specialist cancer nurses have received much formal training. Inadequate communication may cause much distress for patients and their families, who often want considerably more information than is usually provided. Many patients leave consultations unsure about the diagnosis and prognosis, confused about the meaning of--and need for--further diagnostic tests, unclear about the management plan and uncertain about the true therapeutic intent of treatment. Additionally, communication difficulties may impede the recruitment of patients to clinical trials, delaying the introduction of efficacious new treatments into clinics. Lack of effective communication between specialists and departments can also cause confusion and a loss of confidence amongst the team. Oncologists themselves acknowledge that insufficient training in communication and management skills is a major factor contributing to their own stress, lack of job satisfaction and emotional burnout. Consequently, over the past few years there have been several initiatives aimed at improving basic communication skills training for healthcare professionals in the cancer field. In this paper, some of the issues that influence communication within an oncology setting, and ultimately affect patient care, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Teaching