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Men Often Not Told of Severity of Wife's Cancer

Study finds almost 40% say docs never said condition was terminal until near death

WEDNESDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News)-- A new Swedish study reports that two in five widowers were never told their wives' cancer was incurable until she was near death, if they were told at all.

"Our findings suggest that there is room for improvement in the level of communication between health-care providers and the husbands of women with advanced cancer," study author Dr. Hanna Dahlstrand, an oncology resident and researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said in a American Society of Clinical Oncology news release.

The study, expected to be published online July 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, surveyed almost 700 Swedish men whose wives died of breast, ovarian or colon cancer in 2000 or 2001.

Eighty-six percent of the surveyed widowers said next-of-kin should be told immediately if a spouse's cancer is incurable. This included the 71 percent of the men who did not recall being told this information about their own wives.

Of those who were told that their wife's cancer was incurable, 79 percent received the news from the doctor.

Dahlstrand advised cancer patients and their families to clearly tell their physicians that they want more information about disease and prognosis. She also said doctors should ask patients and family members how much information they want to receive.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about preparing patients, family and friends to deal with cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Society of Clinical Oncology, news release, July 8, 2008

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