Patient-healthcare provider communication: Perspectives of African American cancer patients

Lixin Song, Jill B. Hamilton, Angelo D. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Objective: African Americans are often viewed as ineffective communicators during medical encounters. However, most previous studies have been conducted among noncancer populations and based on the perceptions of health care providers (HCP) and researchers. This study aimed to explore African American cancer patients' perspectives of HCPs' communication behaviors and how these communication patterns facilitate or hinder their cancer management and survivorship experiences. Methods: This is a secondary data analysis of qualitative interviews with 28 African American cancer patients residing in the Southeastern U.S. Participants were purposefully selected to represent patients of both genders with varied sociodemographic characteristics. Grounded theory techniques of constant comparison were used to identify patterns of responses from the participants. Results: Four major themes were identified about communication patterns between these cancer patients and their HCPs during diagnosis and treatment: (1) communication of cancer information; (2) communication of shared decision making; (3) communication of empathy and understanding; and (4) communication of respect. This study also described the effects of patient-HCP communication (e.g., satisfaction with oncology care, emotional distress, patient loyalty, treatment adherence, decisional regrets). Conclusions: African American cancer patients in this study perceived that HCPs demonstrated different levels of communication sensitivity and skills during cancer diagnosis and treatment. They also believed that HCPs' communication behaviors directly affected their survivorship experiences. Our findings help to gain knowledge of patient-HCP communication and to identify potential strategies for better communication between patients and HCPs among middle-aged and older African American cancer patients, which will ultimately promote culturally sensitive oncology care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-547
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • African american
  • Cancer
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Decision-making
  • Patient-health care provider communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology


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