Objective: To examine the effects of providing recordings or summaries of consultations to people with cancer and their families.
Design: Systematic review.
Data sources: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Cancerlit, EMBASE and other electronic bibliographic databases. Bibliographies of relevant papers.
Selection criteria: Randomized and non-randomized controlled trials of the provision of taped recordings or written summaries of consultations to people with cancer and/or their families.
Main results: Eight randomized controlled trials were found, all involving adult participants. No non-randomized controlled trials were found. The quality of the studies was generally poor. Between 83% and 96% of people who received recordings or summaries found them useful to remind them of what was said and/or to inform family members and friends about their illness and treatment. Of seven studies that assessed recall of information given during the consultation, four reported better recall among the groups that received recordings or summaries than among control groups. Receiving a recording or summary had no significant effect on anxiety or depression between the groups. None of the included studies assessed survival or health outcomes other than psychological outcomes.
Conclusions: Wider use of consultation tapes and summary letters could benefit many adults with cancer, without causing additional anxiety or depression, but consideration should be given to individuals' circumstances and preferences.