Having to deal with a life-threatening illness is a considerable challenge. For people who find it difficult to talk to their health professionals the problems may be made worse. Those who find it easier to talk to health professionals often feel more able to meet those challenges with a positive outlook.
Decision-making about treatment could be made easier or more difficult according to the way it was communicated. One man discussed the difficulty of questioning medical judgement. Although a doctor himself, he was too inhibited to discuss his doubts about his diagnosis. Another man describes the frustration he experienced when trying to make a decision about treatment because his consultants could never be seen together. A third man describes witnessing an argument between two consultants about whether he should have chemotherapy:
He found it impossible to question his doctor even though he is a doctor himself.
He wished he could get all his consultants together at one time to discuss treatment options.
He remembers his two consultants arguing over his treatment.
By contrast, a woman describes the confidence she felt in her surgeon’s judgment because of the way in which he spoke to her. A man who needed emergency surgery was delighted to encounter a surgeon who assessed his needs and expressed his opinion frankly. A woman who felt exceptionally well cared for describes the approachable manners of her GP and surgeon.
Another man fondly remembered his GPs advice on lifting after surgery which was “to carry no more than one bottle in each hand from the off licence.” He felt that such a good-humoured approach meant that people were more likely to remember the advice they were given.
Her consultant’s way of breaking the news helped her feel confident about treatment.
He felt safe in the hands of a surgeon who spoke frankly.
Having an approachable GP and surgeon meant a lot to her.
Difficulties with communication could add to the strain of people’s time in hospital. One man describes being in a hospital where there seemed to be little effective communication between departments. He also remembered being given differing instructions by a nurse who he felt had poor communication skills. Another man greatly appreciated a sympathetic visit from his surgeon after the attempt to reverse his stoma failed.
Lack of effective communication between hospital departments made his experience more difficult.
Contradictory instructions added to his frustration in hospital.
A sympathetic visit from his surgeon helped him after the attempt to reverse his colostomy failed.
Several people had come away from their cancer experience feeling that they had to be assertive in order to get the information they needed from doctors. A woman who had not been told she had cancer gives her view of how to get the care and information you need. A man reflects on why it can sometimes be difficult communicating with doctors.
Misdiagnosis in young people is a problem and Stephen asks doctors not to dismiss the possibility of cancer even though it is statistically unlikely in young people.