Hope and probability: patient perspectives of the meaning of numerical information in cancer communication

Qual Health Res. 2006 Mar;16(3):318-36. doi: 10.1177/1049732305285341.


Although the complexities inherent in human communication make it a difficult target for empirical investigation and systematic interpretation, it is well recognized that patient-provider communication can have either a powerfully negative or positive influence on the experience of cancer. Drawing on an extensive data set derived from interviews with 200 cancer patients, the authors examine the impact of information provided in numerical form within cancer care communications from the patient perspective. In this context, they present findings related to various uses and abuses of numbers within cancer care communication, and illustrate how numerical information constitutes a specialized communication form with considerable potency for shaping the cancer experience. In particular, accounts of the thematic relationship between numbers and hope, from the perspective of those on the receiving end of cancer care, provide a unique perspective from which to interpret issues of compassion, caring, and informed consent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Participation / psychology
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Probability
  • Prognosis