Nav: Home

Majority of women receive breast cancer diagnosis over the phone

September 11, 2018

A new study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine reveals an increasing number of women are learning about their breast cancer diagnosis over the phone. It's a finding that has prompted the MU School of Medicine to develop new training methods to better prepare future physicians to deliver negative news without being face-to-face with patients.

Researchers surveyed nearly 2,900 breast cancer patients who were diagnosed between 1967 and 2017. The research revealed prior to 2007, about 25 percent of patients learned of their diagnosis over the telephone. After 2007, that number increased to more than 50 percent. Since 2015, that number has grown to 60 percent.

"When we analyzed the data, I was completely surprised to find such a clear trend," said Jane McElroy, PhD, professor of family and community medicine at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Historically, physicians have decided to use their best judgment when delivering a diagnosis, whether it's in person or over the phone. Nowadays, some patients clearly want to hear this information over the phone."

Talking with patients in person about a serious illness or disease is considered best practice at hospitals and medical schools across the country, including at MU Health Care. However, McElroy's research has prompted changes to the MU School of Medicine's curriculum for medical students.

"We are now including additional training for first-year medical students to talk about situations and techniques for breaking bad news over the phone," said Natalie Long, MD, assistant professor of clinical family and community medicine at the MU School of Medicine. Long was not directly involved with the study but adjusted the curriculum after talking with McElroy about the study findings. "The digital age has changed our perception of how we want to get news. I think younger patients just want to know news faster."

Many of the same principals taught for delivering bad news in person can be applied to phone conversations, according to Long. The key is learning beforehand how the patient wishes to be informed. Best practices include making sure the patient is in a good place to talk, using good listening skills, showing empathy, ensuring the patient has a support system around them and developing a follow-up plan.

"Anytime you break bad news, patients only hear a fraction of what you tell them," Long said. "So, that's where the follow up is really important."

"This patient-centered approach to notification shows we are leading the next generation of physicians," McElroy said "When we looked at how other hospitals are confronting this dilemma, we realized we're on the forefront of this discussion by training our medical students before they have to deliver difficult diagnoses as physicians."

In addition to McElroy, the study authors include Christine Proulx, PhD, associate professor of human development and family science; Emily Albright, MD, assistant professor of clinical surgical oncology and Jamie Smith, MA, research analyst at the MU School of Medicine. Other authors include LaShaune Johnson, PhD, assistant professor in the master of public health program at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska; Katie Heiden-Rootes, PhD, Saint Louis University; and Maria Brown, PhD, assistant research professor at Syracuse University in New York.
-end-
The study, "Breaking Bad News of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis over the Telephone: An Emerging Trend," was recently published in Supportive Care in Cancer. The authors of the study declare that they have no conflicts of interest. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Medical Students Articles:

Medical students become less empathic toward patients throughout medical school
The nationwide, multi-institutional cross-sectional study of students at DO-granting medical schools found that those students -- like their peers in MD-granting medical schools -- lose empathy as they progress through medical school.
More medical students are telling their schools about disabilities, and getting a response
The percentage of medical students who told their schools that they have a disability rose sharply in recent years, a new study shows.
High blood pressure affects young, healthy medical students
A small study of medical students found that almost two-thirds had abnormal blood pressure levels.
Minority students still underrepresented in medical schools
While numbers of black and Hispanic physicians have increased, Penn study shows the physician workforce does not represent the shifting demographics of the US population.
Has racial/ethnic representation changed among US medical students?
This analysis reports black, Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native students remain underrepresented in allopathic medical schools when compared with the US population, despite new diversity accreditation guidelines.
For busy medical students, two-hour meditation study may be as beneficial as longer course
For time-crunched medical students, taking a two-hour introductory class on mindfulness may be just as beneficial for reducing stress and depression as taking an eight-week meditation course, a Rutgers study finds.
Perceived barriers to minority medical students pursuing dermatology
The specialty of dermatology is one of the least diverse medical fields.
Disadvantaged students with lower grades do just as well on medical degrees
Students from some of England's worst performing secondary schools who enroll on medical degrees with lower A Level grades, on average, do at least as well as their peers from top performing schools, a new study has revealed.
Clinical medicine training prepares medical students to treat transgender patients
Medical students who are specifically trained in clinical transgender medicine are better prepared to treat transgender patients, a new study from Boston University School of Medicine suggests.
Most medical students overconfident, underprepared on nutrition guidelines
Researchers surveyed 257 medical students and found more than 55 percent were confident they could counsel patients on nutritional recommendations, but half did not achieve a passing score on a nutrition quiz.
More Medical Students News and Medical Students Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.