Cancer Diagnoses

How I Practice Video Series 
Thomas Shieh, MD, FACOG – Tamunig, Guam

Cancer Diagnoses: Thomas Shieh, MD, FACOG from ACOG on Vimeo.

Transcript: Cancer Diagnoses

I often get approached by my colleagues of how do you counsel patients with diagnoses of cancer and on early cancer screening.  I think communication with your patient is very important. First of all, I think you have to be honest with the patients. Don’t try to downplay the diagnosis.  Be honest with them.  You want to speak to think at a language level they can understand.  Language disparity is one of the biggest barriers we have to overcome regarding the communication with patients. Compassion: you should show a patient that you do care because cancer can be a very scary word to not just for the patient but to the family members. From a personal experience, my wife had a breast lump just last week and we were very anxious. As a physician myself, we tried to, you know, stay calm. But, you know, to get the pathology back and the waiting time that we have to go through can be a very scary time for us because you never know what would happen. And if it had come back to be cancerous the whole world could turn upside down for the entire family. So it is very important as a doctor to show that you do care and you have that compassion. Now, when the patients get diagnosed with cancer they usually are, first of all, in shock.  And they don’t know where to go, or how to ask questions. And they may have questions when they leave the office and they want them to be answered. And I usually, in my particular practice, I give them my cellphone. When they have that cellphone next to their homes or phone books or anywhere they may not have access to me it’s important for them.  They can call me anytime regarding any questions they may have, they may have forgotten to ask in the office. And that’s important because they have to be able to reach you and contact you just to have simple answers to their questions. Regarding treatment: The patient is going to have a lot of questions: what now? Where do we go from here, doctor? And those are the issues you have to be able to address. Providing them with a sense of hope is very important. I think ensuring them that you are going to work with a network of specialists to get the care that they need is going to be very important to not just the patients themselves but to their family members as well. I think it’s important to really make sure that any kind of counselling you do for the patient with cancer to be honest, to have compassion, and to provide them with a sense of hope.  And this is how I practice.

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