Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Parent and oncologist perspectives on prognostic disclosure in advanced childhood cancer: communication pearls and pitfalls.

PURPOSE: For children with advanced cancer and their families, communication about prognosis is critical. Unfortunately, data demonstrate that prognostic communication occurs infrequently and inconsistently across advancing illness. Prior to developing an intervention to improve prognostic communication, we aimed to (1) characterize parent and oncologist perspectives on "best" approaches for prognostic communication, and (2) explore similarities and differences between parent and oncologist perspectives.

METHODS: Children with poor-prognosis solid tumors, their parents, and oncologists were followed prospectively for 24 months or until death. Matched semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents and oncologists 0-7 days after medical encounters at timepoints of disease progression or relapse. Reflexive thematic analysis was conducted to describe parent and oncologist impressions of communication quality.

RESULTS: A total of 68 interviews were conducted following serial disease reevaluation encounters involving 13 parents and five oncologists. Nine main themes were identified as "best" approaches: (1) speaking with honesty and clarity, (2) leaving room for hope, (3) leaning into a long-standing relationship, (4) personalizing language, (5) empowering the patient and family, (6) collaborating with the multidisciplinary team, (7) providing anticipatory guidance, (8) setting the scene, and (9) creating a therapeutic space. Parents and oncologists generally agreed on themes related to helpful communication approaches, while parents more explicitly described communication pitfalls.

CONCLUSION: Parents and oncologists described clear recommendations for helpful communication strategies and pitfalls to avoid during difficult prognostic disclosure. Future work should integrate patient perspectives in the design and testing of an intervention to improve prognostic communication in advanced childhood cancer.

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