Communicating prognosis in cancer care: a systematic review of the literature

Ann Oncol. 2005 Jul;16(7):1005-53. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdi211. Epub 2005 Jun 6.


Prognosis is an issue that most doctors and patients describe as difficult to discuss and the best way of presenting prognostic information to optimise patient understanding, psychological adjustment and decision-making is uncertain. A systematic review of the literature was conducted with the aim of clarifying the current available knowledge of patient preferences, clinician views and current practice regarding the communication of prognosis. Eleven primary research questions guided organisation of the review findings, which were: patient preferences for prognostic information and preferred style of communicating prognosis; disclosure of prognosis to family members; physicians' views on communication of prognosis; current practice of delivering prognostic information; patient understanding and awareness of prognostic information; cultural differences in preferences and understanding; impact of prognostic information on patient outcomes; and interventions to facilitate prognostic discussion. Predictors of patient preferences for and understanding of prognostic information were also summarised. Studies are summarised under the subcategories according to the participants' disease stage. It was found that the majority of the published research has been conducted in the early stage cancer setting providing mostly descriptive evidence, and there is little evidence of the best method of communicating prognosis or of the impact of prognostic information on patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Awareness
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prognosis