Objective: Family members can significantly impact advanced cancer patients' treatment and are important participants in goals of care (GoC) conversations. Yet, research on patient and physician perspectives about family involvement and influence on GoC conversations is limited. Our purpose was to describe patients' and oncologists' perspectives about family involvement and influence on GoC conversations among patients with advanced cancer. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews at academic, community, and municipal hospitals (n = 4) with patients with advanced cancer (n = 39) and their oncologists (n = 21). Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. We analyzed data using interpretive description. Three coders independently coded transcripts, compared codes, and resolved discrepancies. Results: We identified 4 themes common to patients and oncologists regarding family involvement in GoC conversations: (1) Presence and Duration of Family Involvement; (2) Family Expectations; (3) Protecting patients'/Family Members' Feelings; and (4) Patient-Family Disagreement. For patients, we identified 2 additional themes: (1) Family and Oncologist Relationship and (2) Effects of Cancer on Family. Both patients and oncologists emphasized the importance of family support for the patient's understanding of their illness and on patients' emotions. We also identified ways in which family involvement may benefit or prove challenging to GoC conversations. Conclusions: Patients and oncologists have similar views about family involvement in GoC conversations. Learning how to communicate with family members should be a critical component of physician education in palliative care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1035-1041
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • cancer
  • family involvement
  • goals of care conversation
  • oncologist communication
  • oncology
  • qualitative research


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