Should your doctor tell you if it might be cancer?

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

                    The Diagnosis Sets Us Free...Even If It Hurts When We Learn It  (from  Healing Hope--Through and Beyond Cancer )                                         Illustration by Emma C. Mathis

                  The Diagnosis Sets Us Free...Even If It Hurts When We Learn It (from Healing Hope--Through and Beyond Cancer)
                                        Illustration by Emma C. Mathis

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