Friday, October 26, 2012

Communication, optimism, and honesty

A recent study at the Dana Farber in Boston (because we needed another study to keep the researchers busy) looked at late stage lung and colon cancer patients and their thoughts on being cured and on their doctor. Two very interesting points were raised:
  • "They found that 69 percent of patients with metastatic lung cancer and 81 percent of ­patients with advanced colo­rectal cancer reported that their chemotherapy might be curative, despite the fact that the drugs were extremely unlikely to cure their cancer."
  • Patients who thought their doctors were worse communicators were more likely to have a realistic view of the potential benefit of their treatment.

Do patients rate their doctors as better communicators because they provide a more optimistic message? So if the information is more in line with what the patient wants to hear is the doctor considered to be a better communicator? But if the doctor is more honest, the patient considers them a worse communicator because they are being told things they don't want to acknowledge?

A sugar coated doctor appointment isn't really a good thing. I want the truth. I have even been known to pull together every brave little molecule in my body and ask my oncologist what my prognosis is. Sometimes the truth isn't pretty but I think its needed.

I know not everyone is the same as me in wanting to hear the truth and doctors do not necessarily know the patients will react to news. I think they assume have to gauge what they say based on what the patient says. I make sure I ask the direct questions so I get the direct answers in return.

I do not want to have a rosy picture of life if it isn't going to be that way. I can't digest and cope with bad news if its sugar coated. I have to adapt to reality and then learn how to make lemonade with my latest life lemons.

2 comments:

Nancy's Point said...

"The truth and nothing but the truth," that's what I want. Telling patients what they want to hear is unethical. Of course bad news must be delivered compassionately. Thanks for writing about this.

Elizabeth said...

I completely agree! When I was getting ready for surgery, treatment, etc, I wanted the facts - not a pretty picture. I wanted straight forward information that I could use to decide my path -
I pushed for that and I got it.
It's best to know the good, bad and ugly upfront...without the rose-colored glasses.