Patients’ and oncologists’ views on how oncologists may best address patients’ emotions during consultations: An interview study

Leonie N.C. Visser, Sanne Schepers, Marieke S. Tollenaar, Hanneke C.J.M. de Haes, Ellen M.A. Smets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This qualitative study examines patients’ and oncologists’ views on how to best address emotions during consultations, and explores oncologists’ opinions on their own communication and on strategies to improve oncologists’ response to patients’ emotions. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 cancer patients and 13 oncologists, after watching videotaped consultations illustrating three communication strategies for addressing emotions. Results: Many participants preferred emotion-oriented speech to address patients’ emotions; this strategy was assumed to (positively) affect a broad range of outcomes. Nevertheless, some preferred attentive silence or no emotion-oriented talk at all. Oncologists and patients had similar views on factors that may hinder oncologists to address emotions. Generally, oncologists mentioned that their response to emotions could be improved; for this, various (educational) strategies were suggested. Conclusion: Patients and oncologists generally agree that patients’ emotions can best be addressed by empathic, explorative, acknowledging, and supportive statements. Still, differences in preferences exist, thus oncologists need to attune their communication to the individual patient. Practice implications: The findings can inform medical communication training and encourage oncologists to improve their communication. The regular videotaping of consultations might be a promising method to provide feedback and reflect, thereby improving oncologists’ response to patients’ emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1231
Number of pages9
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Cancer
  • Emotions
  • Medical communication
  • Oncologist
  • Oncology
  • Patient
  • Physician-patient relations
  • Qualitative research

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