Purpose: Seven years ago, the National Cancer Institute compiled a review of the literature published from 1979 to 1990 on information, education, and communication needs of patients with cancer and their families. Because of its potential value to health professionals and to the community, an updated report of relevant literature is presented in this article. The report provides analysis to assist health professionals in tailoring the quantity, variety, and timing of information they present to the patient with cancer and his or her family.
Overview: This review incorporates a sample of 66 articles published from 1990 to 1997. Of these 44 articles address the information, education, and communication needs of patients with cancer and their families. The discussion focuses on how health professionals can maximize patient comprehension and retention of information, encourage patient participation in health decision making, and foster dialogue with patients and families.
Clinical implications: Steps should be taken within healthcare organizations to ensure that ongoing informational needs assessment and education are a routine part of comprehensive cancer patient care. This analysis points to the importance of tailoring information to meet patients' educational background, cultural orientation, and general level of comprehension. Healthcare providers must not only consider the degree to which a patient with cancer desires information, but also how active a role he or she wishes to take in making treatment decisions. In addition, health professionals should be aware that the informational needs of patients and family members change throughout the course of care and therefore should be reassessed periodically.