Objectives
  • To better appreciate that communication about cancer, treatment and prognosis are highly sensitive topics

  • To heighten recognition of emotional cues during discussions that impact on conversations between doctors, patients and their loved ones

  • To communicate with patients and their relatives in such a way that they feel understood and treated as a whole person

  • To provide balanced discussions with attention to benefits and risks of any oncological intervention, and the evidence (or, in some instances, the lack of evidence) that informs options

  • To communicate with patients with cancer, cognizant of the diverse cultural backgrounds that they come from

  • To increase provider skills in communication around difficult topics, such as end-of-life

  • To establish a relationship which promotes trust and therapeutic alliance

Awareness
  • Recognition that communication is a basic competency for oncologists

  • Appreciation that our patients respond as individuals to clinical conversations; recognising emotional or cognitive cues enhances discussions, particularly around sensitive topics

  • Awareness that the oncologist has his or her own personality, contextual factors and his/her lived experience, which are factors that can facilitate or hamper communication with patients and relatives

  • Awareness that communication about difficult topics is a source of emotional stress for clinicians; enhancing abilities to perform these tasks can help to reduce burn out from the oncology work force

Knowledge
  • Knowledge that communication training in oncology has been shown to be effective if the training is learner-centred, uses role-play and structured feedback and is conducted in small groups by trained facilitators

  • Understanding that follow-up supervisions and booster sessions are recommended, but are not evidence-based so far

  • Understanding that skills training around communication should be a mandatory part of all fellowships and training opportunities in oncology

Skills
  • Ability to communicate cancer, from explaining a diagnosis, reviewing treatment options, to discussing prognosis

  • Ability to demonstrate enhanced communication tasks such as breaking bad news, dealing with strong emotion, giving complex information, enabling shared decision-making, running a family meeting and transitioning to palliative care and care at the end of life

  • Ability to communicate special issues such as genetic risk

  • Ability to explain the role of active surveillance (eg, watchful waiting in men with an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA))

  • Ability to discuss medical information from non-traditional sources (eg, web-based, social media) and participation in clinical trials