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Cancer patients 'helped by seeing medical records'

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Cancer patients can be shown their medical records soon after diagnosis without making them too worried about the future, a new study has found.

Doctors have traditionally thought that giving people too much information would increase their anxiety, but patients have reported a desire to have as much knowledge as possible about what is happening to them.

A French study, published early online in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, has tested the idea, allowing some patients access to an organised medical record (OMR) and others “on request information”. The researchers looked at the effects of each on cancer patients’ anxiety, quality of life and satisfaction.

Study leader Dr Gwenaelle Gravis, of the Paoli-Calmettes Institute in Marseille, said the results show giving people an OMR on top of advice from doctors is useful for them.

Some 70.4% of people given an OMR said with hindsight they would still choose to see it and 74.8% said they did not regret having it available. Most people said they did not come across unwanted information, they understood the records and it had not added to their worries.

A majority also reported they understood their cancer better after seeing the OMR and it made talking about it with doctors and family members easier.

“Information is crucial to make decisions regarding treatment options and, for the patient and his family, to better cope with the disease and its implications. Having full access to his own medical record with the possibility to consult it only if desired increases the patient’s trust in the physician and medical team,” said Dr Gravis.

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