Prognosticating for Adult Patients With Advanced Incurable Cancer: a Needed Oncologist Skill.
Chu C., Anderson R., White N., Stone P.
Patients with advanced cancer and their families commonly seek information about prognosis to aid decision-making in medical (e.g. surrounding treatment), psychological (e.g. saying goodbye), and social (e.g. getting affairs in order) domains. Oncologists therefore have a responsibility to identify and address these requests by formulating and sensitively communicating information about prognosis. Current evidence suggests that clinician predictions are correlated with actual survival but tend to be overestimations. In an attempt to cultivate prognostic skills, it is recommended that clinicians practice formulating and recording subjective estimates of prognosis in advanced cancer patient's medical notes. When possible, a multi-professional prognostic estimate should be sought as these may be more accurate than individual predictions alone. Clinicians may consider auditing the accuracy of their predictions periodically and using feedback from this process to improve their prognostic skills.Clinicians may also consider using validated prognostic tools to complement their clinical judgements. However, there is currently only limited evidence about the comparative accuracy of different prognostic tools or the extent to which these measures are superior to clinical judgement. Oncologists and palliative care physicians should ensure that they receive adequate training in advanced communication skills, which builds upon their pre-existing skills, to sensitively deliver information on prognosis. In particular, clinicians should acknowledge their own prognostic uncertainty and should emphasise the supportive care that can continue to be provided after stopping cancer-directed therapies.