Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study to find out how people with lung cancer tell their family and friends about their diagnosis
This study looked at how people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer tell their adult family and friends, and how doctors and nurses can support them.
Researchers wanted to find out the best way to support people when they tell their family and friends about their diagnosis. There was not a lot of research about what support people with cancer may find helpful at this time.
The aims of this study were to
- Find out what the particular difficulties are when telling family and friends about your cancer
- Develop a way of helping doctors and nurses support people when they tell friends and family about their cancer
Summary of results
The research team found out some of the issues people have when telling their family about their diagnosis. They also developed a framework that health professionals could use as guidance for helping patients in this situation.
This study was split into 2 parts. In the first part, the research team spoke to 20 patients with lung cancer, 17 family members and 27 doctors and nurses. They asked the patients and relatives about their experiences of sharing bad news and the support they got at that time. And they asked the health care professionals about how they helped prepare patients in this situation.
Patients found telling other people difficult because they were still coming to terms with the bad news themselves. So dealing with other people’s reactions was hard. Another issue was that there were often many different people to speak to. How and when patients chose to speak to relatives depended on when they felt ready, and who they were telling.
Patients felt generally supported by the health care professionals, but didn’t feel there was much support about this issue in particular. While doctors felt that they weren’t really part of the process of patients telling their relatives, the specialist cancer nurses felt it should be part of their role. But specific support for sharing bad news was not routinely offered.
The second part of the study was to develop a way of helping nurses and doctors support patients (an intervention). The research team looked at the results of the first part of the study and found that there were 6 main points to be considered when sharing bad news. They turned these into 6 questions that might be helpful for people, which were
- Who do I tell and why?
- When do I tell them?
- What do I tell people?
- Does it have to be me?
- How do I tell them?
- How will people react?
The research team have developed a framework for health care professionals to use in this situation, based around these 6 key points.
The research team concluded that giving relatives bad news could be difficult, and they developed an intervention to use as a guide to help support patients in this situation.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the study. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Dr Gail Ewing
Dimbleby Cancer Care
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer