Mesothelioma Center – Vital Services for Cancer Patients & Families

What Your Mesothelioma Oncologist Expects You to Ask | Online Support Group

Most people with cancer leave their oncologist’s office to realize their mind is reeling with unanswered questions.

Whether they forgot to ask, didn’t know to ask, hesitated to ask or assumed the doctor would it bring up, practically everyone with cancer experiences communication struggles during cancer care.

Studies have long proven that communication between doctors and patients is suboptimal. In oncology care, doctors and nurses regularly fail to address the diverse range of concerns of cancer patients. Research also shows oncologists experience difficulty in accurately detecting patient distress.

Consequently, subpar communication may impair a physician’s ability to offer pain and symptom management. Poor communication between physicians and patients can result in patients losing trust in their doctor.

In the past decade, the medical industry has made strides in educating health professionals in communication. But, in the past, few doctors received guidance on how to talk to and connect with their patients.

Communication Is Essential to Quality Care

Doctors receive little, if any, education on communication while earning their degree. Often, they passively learn how to communicate from other doctors and health professionals in their field.

As a result, physicians often struggle with communication skills, leading to misunderstandings and sometimes poorly informed patients.

Doctors who possess good communication skills naturally build trust with patients and make families feel guided and supported. These doctors tend to form better relationships with their patients. Ultimately, this connection results in a better care experience for people with cancer.

Tips to Improve Communication

Although patients can’t control how well their doctor communicates, they can improve their own communication skills. Consider implementing some of the following tips:

Questions and Answers from the January 2015 Online Support Group

Patients and caregivers asked a number of questions during the recent online support group. Here we include answers to some of them.

Q: I’ve lost trust in my oncologist, but I like my surgeon. Can I switch to another oncologist?

A: This depends upon the cancer center where you are receiving care. Often, only one oncologist who specializes in mesothelioma is available at each cancer center. Sometimes, more than one oncologist is available to oversee your care, but this isn’t always the case because mesothelioma is rare and few cancer doctors specialize in it. Reach out to someone appropriate at the cancer center to discuss your options.

Article Sources

  1. Back, A.L., Arnold, R.M., Baile, W.F., Tulsky, J.A., & Fryer-Edwards, K. (2005). Approaching difficult communication tasks in oncology. CA Cancer J Clin, 55: 164-177. Retrieved from
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