Preferences of Malaysian Cancer Patients in Communication of Bad News


Background: Breaking bad news to cancer patients is a delicate and challenging task for most doctors. Betterunderstanding 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 badnews. Methodology: This was a cross-sectional study conducted in the Oncology clinic of a tertiary teachinghospital. Two hundred adult cancer patients were recruited via purposive quota sampling. They were requiredto complete the Malay language version of the Measure of Patients’ Preferences (MPP-BM) with minimalresearcher assistance. Their responses were analysed using descriptive statistics. Association between demographiccharacteristics and domain scores were tested using non-parametric statistical tests.
Results: Nine items wererated by the patients as essential: “Doctor is honest about the severity of my condition”, “Doctor describingmy treatment options in detail”, “Doctor telling me best treatment options”, Doctor letting me know all of thedifferent treatment options”, “Doctor being up to date on research on my type of cancer”, “Doctor telling menews directly”, “Being given detailed info about results of medical tests”, “Being told in person”, and “Havingdoctor offer hope about my condition”. All these items had median scores of 5/5 (IQR:4-5). The median scoresfor the three domains were: “Content and Facilitation” 74/85, “Emotional Support” 23/30 and “Structural andInformational Support” 31/40. Ethnicity was found to be significantly associated with scores for “Content andFacilitation” and “Emotional Support”. Educational status was significantly associated with scores for “Structuraland Informational Support”.
Conclusion: Malaysian cancer patients appreciate the ability of the doctor to provideadequate information using good communication skills during the process of breaking bad news. Provision ofemotional support, structural support and informational support were also highly appreciated.