Facing cancer is no walk in the park. It’s normal to feel confused, worried, and downright stressed. Rightfully so, you’re probably scared out of your wits, explaining why many report high anxiety levels while waiting for test results.1 And as a patient, your doctor plays an enormous role in everything you do from now on. Yet, like most situations in life, words make all the difference.
Of course, we all have a different way of handling things. Some of us prefer cut-throat information that’s straight to the point, while others appreciate a gentle, nurturing approach. But don’t forget that the same goes for doctors! Each one has a different personality, so it can be tricky to find one that you click with.
This is also more vital than you think. In fact, the relationship between you and a doctor is major factor in quality of life and mortality.2 For the best outcome possible, communication must include responding to emotions, planning future ways to communicate, and acknowledging reasons for miscommunication.3 Without these factors, the road to recovery will be bumpy.
1. “I’m Afraid I Have Bad News”
Talk about a cliffhanger. Saying this brings on a surge of fear, something no one likes to deal with. It adds anxiety on top of anxiety.
“You Have x Months To Live”
A doctor is not a psychic. And while they can provide a general estimate, this statement suggests that there is no hope. Instead, the focus should be what you can do to survive the odds.
3. “Calm Down”
Cancer is not an easy situation to stomach, and emotions are at an all-time high. Yet, no one should tell you how to feel. If a doctor tells you to “calm down”, they clearly do not have empathy for your situation.
4. “It Happens”
Obviously, it happens. But it happened to you, and now there needs to be a game plan. Saying that cancer is just another thing that “happens” simply diminishes its importance.
“You Have No Choice”
Ultimately, this is not true. You have a choice to go forward with treatment, and you have a choice to even visit the doctor at all. Be wary of an “all or nothing” mindset. Get a second, third, or even fourth opinion, even if you are on good terms with your doctor.
6. “According To Statistics…”
Yes, statistics are useful. They add validity to treatments and remedies. But at the end of the day, you’re not just another statistic. Percentages mean the most when they apply to your situation, and even then, there’s always room for change.
7. “Why Didn’t You See A Doctor Sooner?”
People brush off symptoms for countless reasons. Often, it’s so vague that it can seem like something else. This question only digs a deeper hole for guilt to grow. Instead of focusing on the past, the questions should be about the future.
8. “Another Patient With Cancer…”
It’s no secret that other patients have or had cancer. However, equating your situation to someone else’s is irrelevant. Every person is so different, and there’s no point in comparing and contrasting. What works for someone else might not work for you.
9. “I Know How You Feel”
Even if a doctor had the same diagnosis, there’s no merit to this statement. Sure, maybe someone can relate, but they’ll never be in your shoes. Instead, acknowledging how you feel and focusing on your concerns will have a bigger impact.
|↑1||Woolen, Sean, Ella A. Kazerooni, Amber Wall, Kelly Parent, Shannon Cahalan, Mitchell Alameddine, and Matthew S. Davenport. “Waiting for Radiology Test Results: Patient Expectations and Emotional Disutility.” Journal of the American College of Radiology (2017).|
|↑2||Zaporowska-Stachowiak, Iwona, Katarzyna Stachowiak, and Katarzyna Stachnik. “Two is a perfect number: Patient–doctor relationship and patient attachment style in palliative care.” Journal of Health Psychology (2017): 1359105317721307.|
|↑3||Dy, Sydney M., Sarina R. Isenberg, and Nebras Abu Al Hamayel. “Palliative Care for Cancer Survivors.” Medical Clinics of North America 101, no. 6 (2017): 1181-1196.|