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Communication Challenges Among Oncologists in Mexico

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Communication challenges related to the delivery of bad news are present in oncologists’ daily practice. Hence, communication skills are essential for clinicians to handle these situations as appropriately and compassionately as possible. The aim of this study was to identify Mexican oncologists’ perceptions on the most important and hardest issues to discuss with patients and their families, as well as the challenges they most commonly encounter when communicating bad news. Physicians from various oncology centers were invited to anonymously complete an electronical survey designed by our multidisciplinary oncology team. Statistical analysis was performed with the SPSS software v25; descriptive statistics were used for the analysis of the survey’s answers. In total, 115 physicians were included; most were medical oncologists. Treatment objectives and prognosis were the topics most of them considered relevant to address; while end-of-life care and treatment objectives were the hardest ones to discuss. The most difficult challenges they faced when breaking bad news were being honest without taking away hope and dealing with patients’ emotions. Remarkably, we detected a lack of training in delivering bad news to patients among our participants, as a minority of them had formal training in the matter. However, most desired to receive communication skills training and believed a session of 2–5 h would be sufficient. Mexican oncologists face diverse communication challenges when disclosing bad news to patients. Our findings reveal an opportunity to develop formal training programs tailored for Mexican oncologists and to ultimately improve outcomes and patient-centered care.

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Author information

Conceptualization of this study was headed by Alejandra Platas, Cynthia Villarreal-Garza, and Alejandro Mohar; Methodology was headed by Alejandra Platas, Cynthia Villarreal-Garza, and Alejandro Mohar; Data collection was headed by Ariel Jasqui-Bucay and Fernanda Rivera; Formal analysis was headed by Sylvia de la Rosa-Pacheco; Writing “original draft preparation” was headed by Marlid Cruz-Ramos, Fernanda Mesa-Chavez, Alejandro Mohar, and Cynthia Villarreal-Garza; Writing “review and editing” was headed by Marlid Cruz-Ramos, Fernanda Mesa-Chavez, and Cynthia Villarreal-Garza; and Supervision was headed by Cynthia Villarreal-Garza.

Correspondence to Cynthia Villarreal-Garza.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

This study was performed through the application of an anonymous electronic survey, and the invitation for physicians to answer the questionnaire was made specifying and emphasizing that their participation was voluntary and their answers were completely anonymous, with no possibility for researchers to track either who answered the survey or which were each participant’s answers. Due to the anonymous and untraceable nature of the questionnaire and no more than minimal risk to participants related to the study, an ethics committee approval was not required.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Platas, A., Cruz-Ramos, M., Mesa-Chavez, F. et al. Communication Challenges Among Oncologists in Mexico. J Canc Educ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01703-7

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  • Bad news disclosure
  • Cancer
  • Communication
  • Mexico
  • Oncologists
  • Oncology