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People who have never undergone chemotherapy imagine most of its side effects to be worse than how they are in fact experienced by those who have actually been given chemotherapy. This is the main conclusion reached in the study titled 'Chemotherapy: How much do you know about it?’, conducted and headed by UvA communications scholar Dr Julia van Weert last spring.

Hair loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting are the best known side effects of chemotherapy. Bleeding, fever and infections are less known but more common, and require the patient to take action at an early stage to prevent complications. Dr Van Weert’s research shows there is a great need for information about the treatment, how to deal with the side effects in daily life and the prognosis. But there is also a need for affective or emotional communication. The results of the research can be used in day-to-day practice to improve the provision of information about chemotherapy.

The elderly versus the young

The research also revealed that women know more about chemotherapy than men and that people under the age of 65 know more about chemotherapy than the elderly. There is little difference between the information and communication needs of younger and older patients, but younger patients are more proactive in seeking sources of information than the elderly. Affective communication is even more important to the elderly than to young people. Care providers can assist patients in this respect. Patients believe there is still considerable room for improvement in the provision of information. The research results will be beneficial to care providers and help them specifically advise patients on consulting sources of information. The wealth of data generated by the research offers Julia van Weert the opportunity to conduct further, in-depth research.

Survey conducted among more than 3,000 people

Under the title of 'Chemotherapy: How much do you know about it?’, the UvA's Department of Communication Science conducted research into the public’s level of knowledge about and perception of undergoing chemotherapy in the Netherlands. Over 3,000 Dutch citizens took part in the survey, which began on World Cancer Day on 4 February and ended on 4 April 2012. Public Eyes BV commissioned the UvA to conduct the survey, which was made possible thanks to funding received from Amgen BV and KWF Kankerbestrijding (cancer prevention organisation).