The Role of Kindness in Cancer Care

November 2017 | Berry, Leonard L.

Role of Kindness in Cancer Care



The wonders of high-tech cancer care are best complemented by the humanity of high- touch care.
Simple kindnesses can help to diffuse negative emotions that are associated with cancer diagnosis
and treatment—and may even help to improve patients’ outcomes. On the basis of our experience in
cancer care and research, we propose six types of kindness in cancer care: deep listening, whereby
clinicians take the time to truly understand the needs and concerns of patients and their families;
empathy for the patient with cancer, expressed by both individual clinicians and the care culture,
that seeks to prevent avoidable suffering; generous acts of discretionary effort that go beyond
what patients and families expect from a care team; timely care that is delivered by using a
variety of tools and systems that reduce stress and anxiety; gentle honesty, whereby the truth is
conveyed directly in well-chosen, guiding words; and support for family caregivers, whose physical
and mental well-being are vital components of the care their loved ones receive. These mutually
reinforcing manifestations of kindness—exhibited by self-aware clinicians who understand that how
care is delivered matters—constitute a powerful and practical way to temper the emotional turmoil
of cancer for patients, their families, and
clinicians themselves.



  • Tracey S. Danaher
  • Robert A. Chapman
  • Rana L.A. Awdish


JCO Oncology Practice (formerly known as Journal of Oncology Practice)