Question prompts to empower cancer patients: results of a randomized controlled trial



In addition to question prompts for information transfer, we also used prompts to facilitate the expression of emotions. Our aim was to investigate how a question prompt list (QPL) is accepted by patients and whether it enhances interactional empowerment of the patients in the consultation with the radio-oncological treatment team before the beginning of radiotherapy.


Adult cancer patients before the beginning of radiotherapy were randomly assigned to the intervention group (IG) or control group (CG). The patients in the IG received a QPL with predefined subsets and subject areas. After the physician’s consultation, both groups completed a self-developed, content validated questionnaire on interactional empowerment. The IG evaluated the QPL using a self-developed instrument.


A total of 279 adult cancer patients participated in the study (IG n = 139/CG n = 140). The participants of the IG reported a significantly higher interactional empowerment compared with those of the CG (t(277) = − 2.71, p = .007, 95% CI [− 1.61, − 0.26], d = 0.29). 60.4% of the IG agreed “rather” or “very” that they used the QPL in consultation with the medical team.


The QPL used in the consultation improved the self-assessed competence for interaction with the medical team and strengthened the interactional empowerment. The QPL was well accepted by the patients and is to be introduced into a routine as a practicable and simple instrument in the future. The support of patients in addressing concerns and fears is an important innovation.

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Correspondence to T. Zetzl.

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Conflict of interest

Zetzl, Mann, and Gruner report grants from Deutsche Krebshilfe, during conduct of the study. Schuler, Jentschke, Neuderth, Roch, and Oorschot have nothing to disclose.


The design, conduct, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of the results were performed independently of the funders. The funders played no role in the review or approval of this manuscript.

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Zetzl, T., Mann, D., Gruner, S. et al. Question prompts to empower cancer patients: results of a randomized controlled trial. Support Care Cancer 28, 2571–2579 (2020).

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  • Question prompt lists
  • Empowerment
  • Oncology
  • Information needs