From the Journals

Videos help chemo patients better understand their treatments

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Better job needed on informed consent.

Research conducted by Pentz et al. on how much the core vocabulary is misunderstood is deeply troubling, suggesting that we as oncologists are not meeting the informational needs of patients who are consenting to undergo chemotherapy.

With patients showing better understanding after the videos on the terminology, it revives the notion that informed consent is a process that may require multiple interactions to ensure that patients truly understand what they are getting into with chemotherapy treatment, counter to the current treatment environment where there is a rush to get consent, treat the patient, and move onto the next one.

Whether the results of the study improve informed consent policy is something that remains to be seen.

Kerry Kilbridge, MD , of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston made these comments in an Aug. 16 accompanying editorial published in Cancer (doi: 10.1002/cncr.32418).



Showing cancer patients receiving chemotherapy short videos about their treatments has the potential to improve their understanding about the treatments they are receiving, new research in Cancer has shown.

Researchers showed 50 patients at an underserved hospital six 1-minute videos focused on important terms related to their chemotherapy treatments and found that the videos helped them better understand what those key terms mean. Before viewing the videos, 15 of 20 terms were misunderstood by more than one third of patients, with 98% unable to define “maintenance,” 74% unable to define “cancer,” and 58% unable to define “chemotherapy.” Six pilot educational videos describing a narrowed down list of six terms were created, and patient understanding of all six terms improved by at least 20% after watching the videos. The six terms defined in the videos were “palliative chemotherapy,” “curative,” “cancer,” “blood count,” “risk of infection,” and “chemotherapy.”

“Although a current concern is that precision medicines will not be understood due to genetic illiteracy and misunderstandings about the immune system, it is important to remember that the terminology used to describe chemotherapy, the backbone of many cancer treatments, may also be incomprehensible to some patients,” Rebecca Pentz, PhD, of Emory University, Atlanta, and colleagues wrote.

“Our video pilot suggests that multimedia can help patients understand chemotherapy terminology,” Dr. Pentz and colleagues said. “For each term, there was at least a 20% increase in patient understanding after watching the video. None of the patients could define palliative chemotherapy before watching the video, but 72% were able to provide a definition afterward.”

Researchers noted that the term most understood after the video was curative treatment (patients being able to define the phrase grew from 34% to 88%).

“Our study establishes that basic chemotherapy terminology is widely misunderstood by an underserved population, but that video-based education can significantly increase patient understanding,” the investigators concluded, but noted the research was limited by the small number of videos as well as the single underserved hospital, which may limit the generalizablility of the study.

Dr. Pentz and colleagues added that “education of physicians about the severe patient lack of understanding of basic cancer terminology and methods to improve understanding would be most helpful.”

SOURCE: Pentz R et al. Cancer. 2019 Aug 16. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32421.

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