The aims of this study were to assess how communication with health care staff is perceived by Danish cancer patients and to characterise those patients who report problems in communication.
In a cross-sectional survey, a nationally representative sample of 2,202 cancer patients who had been in contact with a hospital department during the past year was invited to respond to a questionnaire. Communication with doctors and nurses was assessed separately as were their abilities as listeners, doctors' use of an understandable language, timing of the information, duration of consultations, and whether doctors criticised other doctors.
A total of 1,490 cancer patients responded to the questionnaire. Of these, 24 % reported one or more problems with the areas of communication measured. The problem most frequently reported (by 12 %) was not having sufficient time for consultations. More patients reported problems with doctors' communication and abilities as listeners than with nurses' skills in these areas. There was a general pattern that younger patients and those sampled in Copenhagen reported the highest degree of dissatisfaction with the communication. Those exposed to a high number of different treatment modalities were at especially high risk of experiencing problems.
A high proportion of patients reported one or more problems in the communication. However, the number reporting each of the specific problems was remarkably low. Special focus should be given to patients exposed to several treatment modalities and their communicative needs.