The Cancer Experience: More on Doctor-Patient Interaction

Let’s review what we’ve discussed thus far in previous blogs so as to get the most out of today’s thoughts. I have been arbitrary in stating that the end point of real communication is patient comprehension; anything less is sub-standard. The bottom line as it pertains to patients is, “what has been achieved if a patient doesn’t understand is explained?” To take this one step further, the confusion resulting from incomprehension is often counter-productive. I further wrote that achieving this state of understanding is the responsibility of the doctor, to whom it should be clear that for an uninformed patient, the subsequent cancer-related experiences are psychologically more complicated and frightening.  The cancer experience — the suspicion, the confirmation, the workup, the treatment, and the follow-up—is a continuum, or journey, if you will, that involves a sustained commitment by a number of individuals on the cancer team, and the better the communication between this group and the patient the better. Not all cancer teams are attuned to this concept, but at a minimum, the leader of the team i.e. the oncologist(s) should be keenly aware of and committed to it.

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