Evaluating relationships between lung cancer stigma, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and the absence of empathic opportunities presented during routine clinical consultations

Timothy J. Williamson, Jamie S. Ostroff, Chloé M. Martin, Smita C. Banerjee, Carma L. Bylund, Heidi A. Hamann, Megan Johnson Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Empathic communication in clinical consultations is mutually constructed, with patients first presenting empathic opportunities (statements communicating emotions, challenges, or progress) to which clinicians can respond. We hypothesized that lung cancer patients who did not present empathic opportunities during routine consultations would report higher stigma, anxiety, and depressive symptoms than patients who presented at least one. Methods: Audio-recorded consultations between lung cancer patients (N = 56) and clinicians were analyzed to identify empathic opportunities. Participants completed questionnaires measuring sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics. Results: Twenty-one consultations (38 %) did not contain empathic opportunities. Unexpectedly, there was a significant interaction between presenting empathic opportunities and patients’ race on disclosure-related stigma (i.e., discomfort discussing one's cancer; F = 4.49, p =.041) and anxiety (F = 8.03, p =.007). Among racial minority patients (self-identifying as Black/African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, or other race), those who did not present empathic opportunities reported higher stigma than those who presented at least one (t=-5.47, p =.038), but this difference was not observed among white patients (t = 0.38, p =.789). Additional statistically significant findings emerged for anxiety. Conclusion: Disclosure-related stigma and anxiety may explain why some patients present empathic opportunities whereas others do not. Practice implications: Clinicians should intentionally elicit empathic opportunities and encourage open communication with patients (particularly from diverse racial backgrounds).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-328
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Volume104
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Communication
  • Empathic opportunities
  • Lung cancer
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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