The aim of this review paper is to critique the empirical literature pertaining to the communication needs and goals of cancer patients, and to provide direction for research in this area. According to the conceptual framework of Feldman-Stewart et al., patient-physician communication occurs for the fundamental purpose of addressing each participant's goal(s). This review is divided into two categories of goals: (a) optimal medical management of the cancer, and (b) optimal attention to the patient's psychosocial response to cancer. Optimal medical management includes discussions about disease status and the treatment plan, and the effectiveness of these discussions is frequently determined by assessing patient understanding, satisfaction, and well-being. The literature suggests that cancer patients continue to have unmet communication needs, and communication outcomes are enhanced when physicians attend to the emotional needs of patients. Research gaps in communication research are highlighted, including the need for additional study of several external factors affecting the patient and provider.
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