Making friends with your oncologist

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An oncologist once remarked to me that her patients routinely told her about their personal lives – like they were trying to strike up friendships. I can understand this. It’s not that patients expect their oncologists to invite them over for dinner, but there is a desire to make some sort of human connection. I’m



Your doctor can’t read your mind

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In the cancer world, patients often differ on what they want to hear from their doctors. Here are some examples: Some patients want to know – in detail – the various pros and cons of every treatment option, while other patients just want to know what the doctor thinks is best. Some patients want to



Good care is a partnership between patient and doctor

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I spend much of my time helping seriously ill patients navigate the health care system. As a result, I’m constantly talking with patients about their interactions with doctors and other health professionals. Although each encounter is unique, I’m increasingly aware of some universal truths that contribute to good patient-doctor encounters. Not surprisingly, good encounters require



Chemo nurses and radiation therapists

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Chemotherapy nurses and radiation therapists provide much of the hands-on care to cancer patients. As a result, these professionals have a profound impact on the quality of care that patients receive. I attend a weekly breakfast club for guys who have had cancer. I asked them to describe the qualities in a chemo nurse or



Don’t Be Obnoxious

I sometimes hear people say that they best way to get good health care is to be obnoxious. By this, they mean that you should demand that the doctor see you immediately, or that you should demand that your needs be met first. Let me give you some advice: Don’t be obnoxious. It always works



The Art and Science of Oncology

I suspect most people-and many health professionals-think of treating cancer patients as being especially challenging. Some of those challenges are fairly obvious-people with cancer are often very sick, death sometimes looms as a possible outcome, and everyone in the waiting room is scared. Other challenges are less obvious. A cancer diagnosis affects the entire family.



Doctor-Patient Interactions

I spend much of my time helping seriously ill patients navigate the health care system. As a result, I’m constantly talking with patients about their interactions with doctors and other health professionals. Although each encounter is unique, I’m increasingly aware of some universal truths that contribute to good patient-doctor encounters. Not surprisingly, good encounters require



Human Side of Cancer

Cancer treatment often involves operating rooms, chemotherapy protocols, and high tech radiation therapy equipment. All of which have reduced cancer deaths and improved the lives of those who have been diagnosed with the disease. My job – and it’s a great job — is talking with people being treated for cancer. What they comment on



Communicating with Your Doctor

I’m always struck that some people diagnosed with cancer want to know absolutely everything about their disease while others just want to be told when to show up for treatment. Some people complain that their doctors give them too much information while others complain that their doctors give them too little. Every doctor I’ve known



Questions Every Cancer Patient Should Ask

Question #1: Can you repeat that? Getting diagnosed with cancer is like walking through a hurricane. Winds are swirling all around and you’re just trying to stay on your feet. It’s difficult to remain clear-headed and absorb all that’s being told to you. No one expects you to hear and understand everything. I encourage patients



It’s OK to ask Your Doctor

People often leave their doctor’s offices irritated with themselves for not asking what they wanted to ask. Sometimes they simply forget to ask. (I encourage people to bring a list).  On other occasions, though, people aren’t sure if it’s OK to ask certain questions. Sometimes the questions that people hesitate to ask are the ones