South West Wales Cancer Centre in collaboration with PocketMedic produced three high quality and informative videos explaining how patients were likely to experience the process of having radiotherapy planning CT scans required for accurate radiotherapy treatments for Breast, Prostate and Head & Neck cancers. These were made available on a digital platform with the link given to patients in clinic prior to the scan.
Two groups of patients were studied - initially patients who went through the planning process as usual and then patients who had been offered access to the films. Patients’ level of anxiety was measured before and after having the CT planning scans.
The main finding of this study was unexpected. Patients who had watched the patient information videos had higher levels of anxiety before the CT planning scan than those who did not. This finding was found across all three individual film groups and approached statistical significance (p=0.06) when analysed together. Some patients who had been offered access to the films did not view them.
Information prior to cancer treatment generally and the radiotherapy planning process specifically needs to be available in a variety of formats and offered to patients in a personalised fashion. Some patients will want more information and others less. Family members may also be seeking information to a greater or lesser extent. Information given routinely to patients in order to increase understanding about a process may at the same time increase anxiety about that process rather than reduce it and health professionals should be aware of this when offering such information and provide support for patients and families where it is needed.
These videos will be made routinely available to patients who would like further information about their radiotherapy CT planning scans at the South West Wales Cancer Centre. The radiotherapy planning process continues to be developed and improved with patient experience and outcomes central to this. We are seeking to widen our information and support offered to patients undergoing treatment at the Centre which will digital content but we will not automatically assume that ‘more information is always good’ for all patients and their families, nor that all will prefer to access information digitally.