Communicating bad news to patients and families in African oncology settings

David W. Lounsbury, Scott Nichols, Chioma Asuzu, Philip Odiyo, Ali Alis, Myrha Qadir, Sharon Nichols, Patricia A. Parker, Melissa Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Aims: To assess clinicians' self-reported knowledge of current policies in African oncology settings, of their personal communication practices around sharing bad news with patients, and to identify barriers to the sharing of serious news in these settings. Methods: A cross-sectional study of cancer care providers in African oncology settings (N = 125) was conducted. Factor analysis was used to assess cross-cultural adaptation and uptake of an evidence-based protocol for disclosing bad news to patients with cancer and of providers' perceived barriers to disclosing bad news to patients with cancer. Analysis of Various (ANOVA) was used to assess strength of association with each dimension of these two measurement models by various categorical variables. Results: Providers from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Rwanda represented 85% of survey respondents. Two independent, psychometrically reliable, multi-dimensional measurement models were derived to assess providers' personal communication practices and providers' perceived barriers to disclosing a cancer diagnosis. Forty percent (40%) of respondent nurses but only 20% of respondent physicians had had formal communications skills training. Approximately 20%–25% of respondent physicians and nurses reported having a consistent plan or strategy for communicating bad news to their cancer patients. Conclusions: Results show that effective communication about cancer diagnosis and prognosis requires an appreciation and clinical skill set that blends an understanding of cancer-related internalized stigmas harbored by patient and family, dilemmas posed by treatment affordability, and the need to navigate family wishes about cancer-related diagnoses in the context of African oncology settings. Findings underscore the need for culturally grounded communications research and program design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-57
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Africa
  • cancer diagnosis
  • cultural beliefs
  • cultural practices
  • educational measurement
  • factor analysis
  • oncology care
  • quality of clinician-patient communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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