Cancer Communication

Cancer Communication

The goal of good health care communication is to build a trusting relationship between the patient and the health care team. A trusting relationship allows for sharing of information and defining of patient expectations. 

Cancer is a life-threatening illness. When diagnosed with cancer patients feel fear and anxiety about prognosis and treatments. A general sense of loss of control occurs for nearly all patients. Open communication with the patient and provider fosters many positive results:

 -More informed patients

-Patient’s expectations clearly defined to the health care team

-Patients more satisfied with care

-Patients and families with more control of medical decision making

-Better able to make the change from active treatment to palliative care

Patients and their families should define their expectations for communication to and with the physician. This allows the provider to tailor communication to that family’s and patient’s needs. Some patients and families want a lot of detailed information. Others want less detail. The need for information may change as the patient moves through diagnosis and treatment. There will be key times when information will need to be discussed in detail. These key decision times include:

 -When the patient is first diagnosed

-Anytime new decisions about treatment need to be made

-After treatment, when discussing how well it worked

-Whenever the goal of care changes

-When discussions about advance directives, such as a living will, need to occur 

Cancer is an overwhelming diagnosis. Patient-provider communication, for multiple reasons outlined above and more, is the basis for quality cancer care and cancer outcomes.