Objective: Communicating the discontinuation of anticancer treatment to patients is a difficult task. The primary aim of this study was to clarify the level of oncologist-reported burden when communicating about discontinuation of an anticancer treatment. The secondary aims were (i) to identify the sources of burden contributing to their levels and (ii) to explore the useful strategies to alleviate their burden. Methods: A multicenter nationwide questionnaire survey was conducted on 620 oncologists across Japan (response rate, 67%). Results: High levels of perceived burden were reported by 47% of respondents, and 17% reported that they sometimes, often or always wanted to stop oncology work because of this burden. There was a significant association between high levels of burden and: a feeling that breaking bad news would deprive the patient of hope; concern that the patient's family would blame the oncologist; concern that the patient may lose self-control; and a feeling that there was not enough time to break the bad news. Strategies perceived to be useful by oncologists included training in how to effectively communicate to patients discontinuation of anticancer treatment, a reduction in total workload to allow sufficient time to break bad news, and development of a multidisciplinary model to facilitate cooperation with other professionals and facilities. Conclusions: Many oncologists reported high levels of burden relating to communication of discontinuation of anticancer treatment. A specific communication skills training program, sufficient time for communication and development of a multidisciplinary model could help alleviate the burden on oncologists.
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