Doctor–Patient Communications Key to Individualized Care
Lidia Schapira, MD
Good communication between patients and clinicians is a fundamental component of quality cancer care. Advocates, patients, and clinicians agree that productive dialogues result in treatment plans that are tailored to meet individual needs. Research has finally closed the loop by proving that effective clinician–patient communication is associated with better outcomes.
Throughout the continuum of cancer care, informed patients make better partners in arriving at treatment decisions that are often complex and involve understanding inherent risks and tradeoffs. Communication is multilayered and requires time and patience. Information and knowledge play a crucial part. Consider for a moment the repercussions of misinformation and misconceptions, which often ruin relationships and aggravate suffering. Thus, having patients who are well informed and able self-advocates has become a priority for practicing oncologists.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is often a terrifying experience. Knowledge can be soothing, and good information can help patients cope and be better prepared to endure the experience. Seeking information, prioritizing one’s concerns, finding the right expert for consultation and guidance—all of these important tasks define good coping skills.
So where can patients find such vital information, begin to assemble their questions, and eventually make choices that best refl ect their goals and expectations?
ASCO’s patient website, Cancer.Net, was designed a decade ago to provide patients, their families and friends with timely, oncologist-vetted information. Cancer.Net continues to lead the way in content, design, and interactivity. Its original—and standing—goal has been to provide oncologists with a reliable, trustworthy web site that they could recommend to their patients.
A key strength of the website is the extraordinary review process, which relies on content experts from all disciplines drawn from the ASCO membership. It is truly ASCO at its finest. Your colleagues voluntarily review and work with staff writers in order to make current information understandable and available.
Cancer.Net also continues to expand both its content and scope: new sections on coping with cancer and survivorship are displayed on the main menu, as well as an entire section written in Spanish.
Emotional and physical consequences of cancer, advice on caregiving, end-of-life planning, and bereavement are prominently displayed. Just about every cancer type, including the rarest of tumors, is discussed. Question prompt lists help prepare patients for consultations with oncologists and links to other major websites are provided.
Responding to the needs of a diverse and global audience remains a top priority for ASCO and for the Editors of Cancer. Net. The website shares new and updated material on Facebook and Twitter, and also posts videos on YouTube. It has an RSS feed to announce weekly feature articles, podcasts, and videos on special topics, and its new mobile app has been extremely well received. There’s a line of printed materials for your waiting room or resource center. It provides scientifi c updates after the Annual Meeting and other special Symposia, including the Breast Cancer Symposium, the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, and the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.
Through virtual lectures and printed educational materials, scientific advances that are practice-changing reach the public almost immediately. Excerpts from Annual Meeting and related Symposia also provide both excitement and hope and serve to remind our patients of our commitment to research and ultimately better treatments.
My involvement as Associate Editor continues to be a great source of pride and accomplishment. Visit cancer.net to take a personal tour share your comments with us at contactus@ cancer.net. I encourage you to share this resource with your patients.
About the Author: Dr. Schapira is an assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. She serves as the associate editor for Psychosocial Oncology on the Cancer.Net Editorial Board. She has been an ASCO member for 14 years.
Discover What Cancer.Net Offers Your Patients
Cancer.Net provides several educational materials, both online and in print. Select products also are offered in Spanish. To learn more and to receive samples of the print materials, visit ASCO Central (Booth #7004) in the Oncology Professionals Hall.
■ ASCO’s latest booklet, Cancer Survivorship: Next Steps for Patients and Their Families, gives an overview of the challenges faced by cancer survivors and includes information on the importance of follow-up care, rehabilitation, managing long-term side effects, and maintaining lifelong health.
■ Designed for people with advanced cancer and their families and caregivers, the Advanced Cancer Care Planning booklet provides information on discussing options for care throughout the course of the illness and for finding support.
■ Detailed guides to breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers provide an overview of the cancer, medical illustrations, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, staging, treatment, clinical trials, side effects, after treatment, current research, and questions to ask the doctor.
■ The ASCO Answers fact sheet series covers adult and childhood cancers, as well as treatments and side effects.
■ ASCO’s Managing the Cost of Cancer Care booklet provides information on the costs associated with cancer care and treatment, questions to ask about the cost of care, and information on understanding the Affordable Care Act. Recently updated for 2012.
■ Cancer.Net’s iPhone and Android app offers interactive tools to help patients get answers to important questions, track side effects, and manage medications. Patients can download the mobile app at www.cancer.net/app.
■ Both you and your patients can stay up to date on the latest videos, podcasts, weekly feature articles, and print materials by following Cancer.Net on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube or by subscribing to the Cancer.Net RSS feeds.