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What Did They Say??? - Getting Clear Information on Your Diagnosis

"In this study 45 percent of women with breast cancer said they were unclear about what they had been told when they received their diagnosis..."


Many women come out of the doctor's office after a breast cancer diagnosis with incomplete or totally garbled information.

A study by scientists in Germany, reported in the Annals of Oncology, suggests this means that doctors need to improve their communication skills.

The alternative is that the shock of the breast cancer diagnosis causes such stress that nothing else registers.

In this study 45 percent of women with breast cancer said they were unclear about what they had been told when they received their diagnosis. Close to 60 percent felt that they needed to speak to other medical staff after the initial diagnosis.

The Walther Cancer Research Center, at Notre Dame University explains, "There are a number of recent reports that suggest the communication between patients with a cancer diagnosis and their treating physicians is less than optimal.

  • Patients have an inadequate understanding of their diagnosis and prognosis and an unrealistic perspective of the goals of treatment.
  • They have an inability to evaluate their response to treatment and a difficult time with end of life decisions.
  • Patients appear to make uninformed decisions, particularly in the area of end of life care,
  • and there is an overwhelming interest and support of complementary and alternative medicine by the population in general and cancer patients in particular."

This study could not tease out the reason for the breakdown in communication. Doctors freely admit that this type of communication is difficult at best and anyone who has received a breast cancer diagnosis will admit that after the first words, the rest is a blur.

The vital finding is that women who have been told that they have breast cancer were left with unanswered questions and many concerns that had not been addressed. Most were unaware of support groups which could have made treatment decisions easier and improved quality of life during and after treatments breast cancer treatments.

What can you do to improve the communication between yourself and the medical professionals you trust with your care?

Bring someone with you who can give you support and take notes during the consultation with your doctor.

Many breast cancer survivors report that bringing a tape recorder to meetings with doctors made life much easier.

Ask your doctor for a list - in writing - of the important information. Go over it and write down any questions.

You can't follow doctor's orders if you can't remember what they were. Taking an active part in your own treatment is the best way to regain the feeling of control that a cancer diagnosis takes away.


Elsewhere on the Web:

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Questions To Ask The Doctor

By My Side - Useful Tips


Last Updated April 21, 2017




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