Cancer patients given CDs of consultations

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CANCER patients are being given audio recordings of their hospital appointments as part of a pioneering project to help them better understand their diagnosis.

Men in the early stages of prostate cancer are being offered a CD copy of the conversation they have with their consultant to discuss their treatment. While the patient already knows he has cancer at that stage, it is thought many people still struggle to make a decision about what is the best treatment for them.

The decision to offer recordings came after research showed patients had more knowledge of their illness if they could listen again to the appointment.

Doctors at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh will soon begin evaluating how effective the project has been, but it has already won the backing of sufferers and charities.

Consultant urologist Alan McNeill, who is leading the pilot project, said the recordings would allow men to go back over the consultation and listen again to those bits about which they may feel unsure.

He said: “Men diagnosed with early prostate cancer often have to choose from a range of different treatment options which have similar success rates, but varying impact on quality of life.

“This means that it is vital that men are provided with information in a way that best supports their involvement in the treatment decision as this will increase their confidence in their treatment choice and help them cope with any unwanted effects of treatment. So far the feedback has been really positive.” The project, which is being supported by the Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group, began after a two-year research study was carried out at the Western General funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, involving Mr McNeill and his colleagues.

It allowed half of patients to set their own “agenda” for their treatment consultation. They were also given a recording and a written summary of the key points made during the discussion, while the other patients had normal treatment plans.

The results showed that patients who were more involved not only felt more in control but were more confident about the decisions they took and more optimistic about the future.

Mike Shaw, chairman of Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group, said: “Every man who receives a prostate cancer diagnosis will experience a moment of shock and incomprehension that invariably accompanies the use of the c-word.

“Taking in all the helpful information that follows can often be extremely difficult. The CD recording will allow the patient and his family to listen again in less trying circumstances.

“The Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group is delighted to give the project its full backing and practical assistance.”

NHS Lothian said the recordings were being made for patients alone, with no decision taken yet over whether to extend the scheme to other cancer patients.