Communication skills training for the radiotherapy team to manage cancer patients’ emotional concerns: a systematic review

Mara Myrthe van Beusekom, Josie Cameron, Carolyn Bedi, Elspeth Banks, Gerald Michael Humphris

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Many cancer patients experience high levels of anxiety and concern during radiotherapy, often with long-lasting effects on their well-being. This systematic review aims to describe and determine the effectiveness of communication skills training (CST) for the radiotherapy team (RT) to improve conversations in this setting and to support patients with emotional concerns.

Design: Systematic review.

Interventions: CST for RT members.

Data sources: On 17 April 2018, databases Medline, Embase, Scopus and PsycNET were searched.

Eligibility criteria, Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome(PICO): Quantitative and/or qualitative articles were included that evaluate the effect of a CST for RT members (vs no CST) on communication behaviours and patients’ emotional concerns.

Data extraction and synthesis: Articles were appraised using the mixed-methods appraisal tool, and a narrative synthesis was performed.

Results: Of the nine included articles, five were randomised controlled trials, three were mixed-methods and one used repeated measurements. Four of the five different CST programmes managed to increase emotional communicative behaviour from the RT, and all studies measuring patient communicative behaviour found an improvement in at least one of the hypothesised outcomes. Two studies examining patient anxiety and concerns found a positive effect of the CST, although one found a negative effect; two other studies without a positive effect on mood made use of both empathic CST and tools.

Conclusions: There are promising indications that CST can be successfully introduced to improve emotional conversations between RT members and patients. With the right support, the RT can play an important role to help patients cope with their emotional concerns. Future work is necessary to confirm initial promising results and to ensure the learnt communication skills are sustained.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere025420
Number of pages11
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2019


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