The Next Best Thing: Three Key Conversations to Convey Prognosis Over the Course of an Incurable Cancer

Lindsay Gage, Melissa Teply

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Waiting until a person is very near end of life to discuss limited life expectancy risks lower goal-concordant care and increased utilization of medical interventions with lower likelihood of benefit at the end of life. Medical training on communication skills in serious illness often focuses on early and late conversations regarding prognosis, with no guidance on navigating the conversations occurring in the middle of the illness course. Goal of the review: We propose a new framework for identifying and discussing prognosis at various points along the cancer course, as a continuum from beginning to end, that is prompted by changes in clinical status and number of available remaining cancer directed interventions. Discussion: SPIKES is a framework utilized for early conversations in a cancer course. REMAP is a framework utilization for late conversations in a cancer course. There is a gap in guidance on how to navigate conversations that occur between the early and late phases of a cancer course. We describe 3 general phases of care during a cancer course (“early,” “middle,” and “late”), with each phase warranting specific communication skills in order to improve patient understanding of prognosis, goal concordant care, and best practices for healthcare utilization in the acute and end of life care settings. Conclusion: Framing prognosis by available medical interventions through a framework of “early,” “middle,” and “late” adds clarity to the phase of illness, expectations around delivery of information to the patient, and framing of recommendations at each given phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-360
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Colorectal Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Communication
  • Goals of care
  • Incurable cancer
  • Medical decision making
  • Prognostic awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology


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