Surgeon-Patient Communication in the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

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BackgroundEffective physician-patient communication has been correlated with patient satisfaction and improved outcome. Pancreatic cancer (PC) is a disease with an overwhelmingly poor prognosis that requires a complex level of communication and emotional support. Since the treatment of PC is often surgical, surgeons play a central role in the care of these patients.ObjectivesTo assess the quality of long- and short-term surgeon-patient communication. To assess the role of the surgeon in the emotional support of patients with PC.DesignCombined mail and telephone survey of a case series of patients who had undergone a pancreatic resection for PC.SettingUrban tertiary cancer referral center.PatientsForty-eight patients who underwent pancreatic resection for PC.InterventionPancreatic resection.Main Outcome MeasurePatient satisfaction.ResultsForty-eight patients completed surveys for a response rate of 70%. Patients were extremely satisfied with the information provided by their surgeon before surgery and while in the hospital. However, 21% of patients reported an unexpected outcome of their operation and 27% had questions about their disease at the time of the survey. Patients were largely satisfied with the emotional support they had received while in the hospital and after discharge. The attending surgeon was the most commonly desired source of additional emotional support.ConclusionsWhile surgeon-patient communication was extremely effective before surgery and during hospitalization, patients developed long-term questions and dissatisfaction after discharge from the hospital. Strategies to improve long-term support and communication would benefit a significant number of patients with operable PC. Surgeons play an important role in the emotional support of patients with operable PC.Arch Surg.1998;133:962-966

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