The initial clinical interview--can it reduce cancer patients' fear?
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PURPOSE: A common phenomenon among cancer patients is a fear of cancer recurrence or cancer progression (FOP). The aim of the present study was to analyze whether the oncologist is able to reduce patients' FOP at the initial clinical interview. METHOD: A prospective, longitudinal study included patients who were consulting private-practice oncologists in Germany for the first time. Recruitment was carried out by 44 members of the Professional Organization of Office-Based Hematologists and Oncologists. In the patient surveys, data on colon cancer patients' perceptions of communications with their oncologist and on patient-reported outcomes were collected over a period of 6 months. The present study analyzed the patients' data before their first consultation (T 0) and within 3 days after the first consultation (T 1). RESULTS: A total of 169 patients agreed to participate in the study. Backwards multiple regression analysis was conducted to determine whether the change (T 0-T 1) in FOP is associated with demographic, medical, or psychosocial determinants, or with the physician-patient communication. A significant association was found between the change in FOP and interruptions to the conversation, the comprehensibility of the information provided, the extent of perceived empathy from the physician, and the patient's social support and family status. CONCLUSION: Private social support and the initial medical encounter can help reduce FOP. Particularly, oncologists should ensure that they facilitate the presentation of information in a comprehensible way while avoiding interruptions and that they take particular care of patients with poor social support.