Physician-patient communication may improve liver cancer screening
Effective physician communication with chronic liver disease patients is important with respect to the risks of developing liver cancer and the significance of regular screening, particularly among nonwhites and those with lower education, suggests a recent study.
A total of 467 patients with chronic liver disease at a tertiary-care clinic participated in a phone survey regarding awareness of cancer screening, doctor-patient communication and health behaviours. Researchers retrospectively reviewed medical records for data on liver disease aetiology and dates of liver imaging tests.
Of the patients, 79 percent reported awareness of liver cancer screening and 50 percent reported talking to their doctor about liver cancer. Higher education (p=0.06), alcohol abstinence (p=0.005) and liver cirrhosis (p<0.0001) were associated with awareness of liver cancer screening.
Whites (p=0.006), patients with higher education (p=0.09) and those with cirrhosis (p<0.0001) were more likely to talk to their doctor about liver cancer. Awareness of liver cancer screening (79 percent) was comparable to that of colorectal cancer screening (85 percent), lower than breast cancer screening (91 percent) and higher than prostate cancer screening (66 percent).
Patients who were aware of liver cancer screening (odds ratio [OR], 4.81; 95 percent CI, 2.62 to 8.84) and reported talking to their doctor about liver cancer (OR, 1.97; 1.19 to 3.28) were more likely to receive consistent liver surveillance.
“Physicians need to be aware of the persistent disparities by patient education in clinical communication regarding cancer screening and tailor their efforts to the needs of low-education patients,” researchers from a previous study said. “Quality-improvement efforts targeted at physicians practicing in low-income communities may also be effective in addressing disparities in cancer screening communication by patient income.” [Health Serv Res 2007;42:950-970]
Patients with chronic liver disease have an increased risk of developing liver cancer.