Preferences of Malaysian Cancer Patients in Communication of Bad News

  • Eng, Tan Chai (Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre) ;
  • Yaakup, Hayati (Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre) ;
  • Shah, Shamsul Azhar (Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre) ;
  • Jaffar, Aida (Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre) ;
  • Omar, Khairani (Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre)
  • Published : 2012.06.30


Background: Breaking bad news to cancer patients is a delicate and challenging task for most doctors. Better understanding of patients' preferences in breaking bad news can guide doctors in performing this task. Objectives: This study aimed to describe the preferences of Malaysian cancer patients regarding the communication of bad news. Methodology: This was a cross-sectional study conducted in the Oncology clinic of a tertiary teaching hospital. Two hundred adult cancer patients were recruited via purposive quota sampling. They were required to complete the Malay language version of the Measure of Patients' Preferences (MPP-BM) with minimal researcher assistance. Their responses were analysed using descriptive statistics. Association between demographic characteristics and domain scores were tested using non-parametric statistical tests. Results: Nine items were rated by the patients as essential: "Doctor is honest about the severity of my condition", "Doctor describing my treatment options in detail", "Doctor telling me best treatment options", Doctor letting me know all of the different treatment options", "Doctor being up to date on research on my type of cancer", "Doctor telling me news directly", "Being given detailed info about results of medical tests", "Being told in person", and "Having doctor offer hope about my condition". All these items had median scores of 5/5 (IQR:4-5). The median scores for the three domains were: "Content and Facilitation" 74/85, "Emotional Support" 23/30 and "Structural and Informational Support" 31/40. Ethnicity was found to be significantly associated with scores for "Content and Facilitation" and "Emotional Support". Educational status was significantly associated with scores for "Structural and Informational Support". Conclusion: Malaysian cancer patients appreciate the ability of the doctor to provide adequate information using good communication skills during the process of breaking bad news. Provision of emotional support, structural support and informational support were also highly appreciated.


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