A physician's heart may be in the right place while reassuring a patient, "Don't worry. It'll be nothing." Unfortunately, trying to spare patients worry during evaluations can backfire. Patients who are reassured and then find out they have a serious illness may suffer from...
- Increased shock ("I wasn't prepared at all.")
- Loss of trust ("My physicians didn't tell me the truth about what those tests might show.")
- Lack of confidence in statistics to help guide their care or to reassure them about a likely good outcome ("How can I believe I have a good chance of recovery? I was told not to worry about the test, yet here I am with this diagnosis.")
In general, patients benefit when physicians mention the possibilities in hopeful ways. Better to hear it directly from the physician than from Dr. Google or a friend.
If your physician recommends a test, consider asking...
- What is the most likely result? What is the chance of that?
- What is the worst possible result? What is the chance of that?
While undergoing evaluation, Healthy Survivors remember...
- The results are uncertain, which means you could get the best possible news. (If your physicians knew the results ahead of time, they would not order the test.)
- You want news that helps you most, i.e., accurate news
Talk with your physicians about how much you want to know--or not know--to help you through evaluations. When the results are in, the truth will set you free, even if it hurts when you learn it