Should Doctors Give a Cancer Diagnosis over the Phone?

Cancer & Caregiving

Written by Ben Leer

Reading Time: 3 mins
Publication Date: 10/31/2012
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Leer, B. (2020, October 16). Should Doctors Give a Cancer Diagnosis over the Phone? Retrieved March 29, 2023, from


Leer, Ben. "Should Doctors Give a Cancer Diagnosis over the Phone?", 16 Oct 2020,


Leer, Ben. "Should Doctors Give a Cancer Diagnosis over the Phone?" Last modified October 16, 2020.

There seems to be another epidemic on the rise – insensitive doctors.

This year there are an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer. Nearly 244,000 cancers will be found in the respiratory system, like the cancers caused by asbestos. But are doctors properly preparing patients to received a cancer diagnosis?

Surprisingly, we hear stories of doctors delivering the life-changing cancer news to patients over the phone. This is absolutely insensitive.

A doctor should consider the needs of the patient. Those are mental and physical needs. Are these needs being met by a phone call?

There is an essential question that comes up when we are thinking about this: “How would I want to be told about my test results?”

We went onto our Mesothelioma Facebook Page to learn how the community felt. We asked, “We want to know what you think, should doctors give a cancer diagnosis over the phone?”

Should Doctors Give Patients a Cancer Diagnosis Over Phone - Chart

5 said: “Yes, I would be fine with that.”

47 said: “No, that’s totally unacceptable. It should be face to face.”

5 said: “Maybe, undecided.”

This is what I felt should be expected. An overwhelming number of people would prefer to be told face to face. Here are some reasons why a face-to-face conversation is better:

  • Patients aren’t alone for the news.
  • Patients are able to ask questions.
  • It avoids awkward pauses over the phone.
  • Patients are not in a distracting environment.
  • Patients can ask about treatment options immediately.

A cancer diagnosis eventually leads to a conversation about a course of treatment. Most of the time doctors have some idea of what treatment options are available. Why not have patients at a hospital where they can continue to the next step?

Strong Patient Advocacy Increases Expectations from Doctors

Families and patients are more empowered now because they have a stronger voice. Everyone is paying more attention to bedside manner and what we expect from our health care providers.

We all have different relationships with our doctor. So when is it okay for our doctors to tell us a diagnosis over the phone? Would you allow a doctor tell you over the phone in these scenarios?

  • You live far away from the cancer center
  • It is a reoccurring cancer
  • You have financial restrictions

One of the biggest issues with finding out about cancer is the uncertainty. The physical presence of a doctor can instill security and comfort.

Some hospitals have policies that outline common practices on revealing information to patients. In any case, doctors should give fair warning on how they plan to tell patients the news.

A cancer diagnosis can be an emotional event, and you cannot be certain how someone will react. It is important that doctors consider every aspect of patient’s health when delivering devastating information.

Who would you want with you when a doctor tells you cancer test results? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter.

He is now onto the next stage of the project.

paper with magnifying glass
Get Access to Free Resources for Patients & Loved Ones
Free Mesothelioma Resources