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Poster Display session 1

5187 - Impact of patients’ death on oncologists and coping strategies: An online survey


28 Sep 2019


Poster Display session 1


Psychosocial Aspects of Cancer

Tumour Site


Soumaya Labidi


Annals of Oncology (2019) 30 (suppl_5): v667-v670. 10.1093/annonc/mdz262


S. Labidi, H. El Benna, S. Sghaier, N. Nsiri, M. Nesrine, Y. Berrazega, N. Daoud, H. Boussen

Author affiliations

  • Medical Oncology, Abderrahmen Mami Hospital, 1068 - Tunis/TN


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Abstract 5187


The practice of oncology is challenging, especially when dealing with terminally ill patients and end of life. This is not without an emotional impact on oncologists, with potential negative effect on patient care and personal lives. We aimed to outline the main factors that makes of patients’ death an emotionally difficult experience, and to identify practical coping strategies.


An online survey was completed by 128 oncologists from three North African countries and France, on March-April 2019. All surveys were anonymous and confidential. The questionnaire included socio-demographic information, and sections about patients’ death and coping strategies.


Most respondents were female (83.5%) and young oncologists (20-40 years-old), with less than 10 years professional experience (85.3%), but seeing more than 50 patients per week, and experiencing 0-2 deaths per month. They were mostly from Tunisia (n = 99), Morocco (n = 25), Algeria (n = 2) and France (n = 2). The majority was medical oncologists (57.9%), then radiation oncologists (29.4%). More than two-thirds of the oncologists reported that young age, long-term relationship and family denial towards the prognosis were the main factors making death or therapeutic failure announcement the most difficult. Unexpected evolution leading to death, and the non-access to more effective treatment in our countries had an emotional impact on 70% of the oncologists. A variety of coping strategies was identified: mainly peer support from colleagues and/or family and friends (53.5%), practicing hobbies (39.4%), seeking support in praying and faith (26.3%). Addictive behavior and/or medications were reported in 9.1%, significantly in single respondents (p 0.051). A majority (n = 83) reported a change in their character noticed by their families since the practice of oncology. The oncologists expressed becoming better able to set priorities (48%), more humble and human (61.4%) and motivated to improve their quality of health care (33.9%).


Dealing with patients’ death and confronting therapeutic failure have obviously an effect on oncologists’ personal life. We need to be aware of this issue, and to propose different coping strategies and interventions.

Clinical trial identification

Editorial acknowledgement

Legal entity responsible for the study

The authors.


Has not received any funding.


All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

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