Associations of Caregiver-Oncologist Discordance in Prognostic Understanding With Caregiver-Reported Therapeutic Alliance and Anxiety

Kah Poh Loh, Huiwen Xu, Ronald M. Epstein, Supriya G. Mohile, Holly G. Prigerson, Sandra Plumb, Susan Ladwig, Sindhuja Kadambi, Melisa L. Wong, Colin McHugh, Amy An, Kelly Trevino, Fahad Saeed, Paul R. Duberstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Context: Discordance in prognostic understanding between caregivers of adults with advanced cancer and the oncologist may shape caregivers' views of the oncologist and bereavement outcomes. Objectives: We examined prospective associations of caregiver-oncologist discordance with caregiver-oncologist therapeutic alliance and caregiver anxiety after patient death. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of data collected in a cluster randomized controlled trial from August 2012 to June 2014 in Western New York and California. At enrollment, caregivers and oncologists used a seven-point scale to rate their beliefs about the patient's curability and living two years or more: 100%, about 90%, about 75%, about 50 of 50, about 25%, about 10%, and 0%. Discordance was defined as a difference of two points or more. Outcomes at seven months after patient death included caregiver-oncologist therapeutic alliance (The Human Connection scale, modified into five items) and caregiver anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7). We conducted multivariable linear regression models to assess the independent associations of discordance with alliance and anxiety. Results: We included 97 caregivers (mean age 63) and 38 oncologists; 41% of caregiver-oncologist dyads had discordant beliefs about the patient's curability, and 63% of caregiver-oncologist dyads had discordant beliefs about living two years or more. On multivariate analysis, discordance in beliefs about curability was associated with lower anxiety (β = −2.20; SE 0.77; P = 0.005). Discordance in beliefs about length of life was associated with a weaker alliance (β = −5.87; SE = 2.56; P = 0.02). Conclusion: A better understanding of how caregivers understand and come to terms with poor prognoses will guide interventions to improve cancer care delivery and outcomes of cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Discordance
  • anxiety
  • beliefs about curability
  • beliefs about length of life
  • therapeutic alliance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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