Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

NHS Lothian offers 'bad news' recordings to prostate cancer patients

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Media captionHaving a recording of the information helps patients understand it better

Doctors in Edinburgh are offering people a recording of what may be the worst time of their life - the hospital appointment at which they are told how serious their cancer is.

It is part of a trial to help patients understand the complex information they are given at their consultation.

"We know that in any given conversation you might remember 10% of the information," said consultant urological surgeon, Alan McNeill, from Edinburgh's Western General Hospital.

"Giving patients a CD recording of the consultation allows them to go home and listen again and again, as often as they need, until they've got all the information straight in their own minds."

Audio recordings are being offered to patients attending prostate cancer clinics. The recording is for them alone - no copy is kept by the NHS.

Leslie Horne was told he had inoperable prostate cancer by a consultant at the Western General in January 2006.

He said: "It was pretty grim. It was pretty baffling, and the vocabulary was totally new to me.

"I've got a science degree, so I've got a reasonable understanding of that kind of vocabulary but it was still an awful lot to take in."

Six years on, Leslie has changed his diet, got fit and says life is "pretty good".

He is a member of Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group, which fully supports audio recordings of consultations.

Another member, Tom Lambie, admitted his mind "went blank" after the shock of the diagnosis.

Mr Lambie said: "The idea to go back over that meeting is a great advantage.

"If you had the opportunity to have the whole meeting replayed, then you could find out all the answers you didn't hear when you were in it."

Image caption Doctors hope the recording will help patients digest the details of their case

His cancer was diagnosed at an early stage, so he decided to have brachytherapy, a relatively new treatment involving the insertion of radioactive pellets.

Three years on his cancer is in remission.

"It's really important that the patient understands the pros and cons of any approach and is participating in the decision making," said Mr McNeill.

"Prior to the appointment, we give them written patient information booklets but the information they get at the consultation is very specific to their surgeon and to them. Remembering all that detail is incredibly difficult."

It is hoped those who listen back to their consultation will be more confident about the type of treatment they choose.

If the trial is successful, and if funding can be secured, audio recordings will be provided in other clinics.

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