Role of Kindness in Cancer Care

J Oncol Pract. 2017 Nov;13(11):744-750. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2017.026195. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


The wonders of high-tech cancer care are best complemented by the humanity of high-touch care. Simple kindnesses can help to diffuse negative emotions that are associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment-and may even help to improve patients' outcomes. On the basis of our experience in cancer care and research, we propose six types of kindness in cancer care: deep listening , whereby clinicians take the time to truly understand the needs and concerns of patients and their families; empathy for the patient with cancer, expressed by both individual clinicians and the care culture, that seeks to prevent avoidable suffering; generous acts of discretionary effort that go beyond what patients and families expect from a care team; timely care that is delivered by using a variety of tools and systems that reduce stress and anxiety; gentle honesty, whereby the truth is conveyed directly in well-chosen, guiding words; and support for family caregivers, whose physical and mental well-being are vital components of the care their loved ones receive. These mutually reinforcing manifestations of kindness-exhibited by self-aware clinicians who understand that how care is delivered matters-constitute a powerful and practical way to temper the emotional turmoil of cancer for patients, their families, and clinicians themselves.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Emotions
  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors
  • Truth Disclosure