There may often be a discordance between a patient’s and his or her oncologist’s beliefs about disease prognosis, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.1

To establish the quality of communication between physicians and patients, researchers enrolled 236 patients from New York and California with advanced cancer, along with their corresponding 38 oncologists, to this randomized, survey-based study. Each patient and oncologist was asked to rate the patient’s odds of 2-year survival.

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If the patient’s 2-year survival rating differed from that of his or her oncologist, the patients were asked to guess the oncologist’s prognosis prediction.

Of the 236 enrolled patients, 161 (68%) held discordant views with those of their physicians. Among African American patients, however, 21 of 22 (95%) held discordant views; this was true of only 68% (140) of Caucasian patients.

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The patient’s level of education did not appear to affect results.

The authors concluded that discordance was due to poor communication, as well as a patient’s not understanding his or her oncologist’s expectations.


  1. Gramling R, Fiscella K, Xing G, et al.  Determinants of patient-oncologist prognostic discordance in advanced cancer. JAMA Oncol. 14 Jul 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.1861 [Epub ahead of print]