Clear Communication Leads to Better Mesothelioma Care

Cancer & Caregiving
Reading Time: 5 mins
Publication Date: 04/04/2017
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


Ball, M. (2020, October 16). Clear Communication Leads to Better Mesothelioma Care. Retrieved December 6, 2022, from


Ball, Melanie. "Clear Communication Leads to Better Mesothelioma Care.", 16 Oct 2020,


Ball, Melanie. "Clear Communication Leads to Better Mesothelioma Care." Last modified October 16, 2020.

Most people have experienced a moment of miscommunication during a doctor’s appointment.

Sometimes it feels as though physicians and the people they treat exist in two separate worlds.

However, unified patient-physician communication is most important when families are coping with someone diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive cancer such as mesothelioma.

Patients feel better about their medical decisions when they have an opportunity to discuss options with a trusted physician. Miscommunication may lead to misjudgment regarding treatment preferences and failure to meet patient needs.

Everyone has the right to adequate care, and doctors have a duty to meet patient needs to the best of their ability.

Getting the Facts Straight

Most folks in the mesothelioma community are well versed in the complexity of treating advanced cancer.

Medical professionals, family caregivers, friends and loved ones take battle positions against cancer. A slight miscommunication can throw a wrench into a well-oiled cancer-fighting army.

Unless a patient is blessed with an oncology team that meets collectively, as some do in multidisciplinary specialty centers, good communication is imperative to keep patients and their families informed and coordinate health care services.

Adequate information is an essential building block in the foundation of patient-centered care.

Barriers to Good Communication

Erin P. Balogh, senior program officer at the University of Michigan’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, published an article in The Oncologist in 2011 that explains the barriers to good communication between doctors and the patients.

Barrier classifications consist of patient and physician limitations.

Patient limitations include:

  • Timidity: Social etiquette suggests we maintain politeness with professionals, including our doctors. Sometimes patients shy away from tough questions for fear of appearing rude. Respectful assertiveness is essential in the doctor’s office.
  • Lack of Health Care Knowledge: Let’s face it — cancer is complicated. Concepts discussed during an oncology visit are foreign to patients until doctors make a cancer diagnosis. Many patients find it difficult to understand medical terminology.
  • Emotional Distress: Hearing a doctor say “You have cancer” is agonizing. At times, medical appointments cause anxiety, too. The stress patients experience may cloud their focus during the visit. When patients and caregivers discuss various elements of care, staying on track can become an arduous task.
  • Additional Health Problems: Seeing multiple doctors isn’t ideal, but not all patients are blessed with a medical team that addresses all health problems. Having concurrent ailments, such as cancer coupled with cardiovascular issues or diabetes, adds more confusion and complication to treatment approaches.

While we put faith in our physicians, they are human, too. Sometimes their communication skills become obstacles that stand in the way of conveying sensitive information to the patients they treat.

For example, mesothelioma caregiver Lorraine Kember remembers the pain she felt when her husband’s doctor bluntly told them, “Mesothelioma – three to nine months, I reckon.”

The doctor’s lack of empathy explaining her husband’s mesothelioma life expectancy devastated her when she was most vulnerable.

Physician limitations include:

  • An Overbooked Schedule: We’d like to think that our doctors take their time with patients, but often, they have hectic schedules. Sometimes emergency situations negate adequate time slots. If a physician sees extra patients, it can make him or her feel rushed to get through appointments.
  • Inability to Explain Complicated Information: Some cancer-related issues are difficult to explain in layman’s terms. Doctors use language with which their patients are unfamiliar, and finding adequate word substitutes can be challenging. Teaching patients about cancer may not be one of the physician’s strong points.
  • Lack of Sensitivity: Before a doctor pairs a face with a name, people are collectively known as “patients.” It is sometimes challenging for medical professionals to consider the totality of a patient’s physical, emotional and cultural needs. A physician’s sense of urgency might conflict with a desire to become well acquainted with patients.

Humans are complicated beings, and many different elements factor into our well-being. Addressing all aspects of health is difficult for doctors and patients. Complex treatment options, diagnosis-related patient emotions, and the need for rapid physician responses further hinder patient-physician communication.

Closing the Communication Divide

The Journal of Pain Symptom Management asserts that around 80 percent of advanced-cancer patients would rather just hear the cold-hard facts regarding their prognosis and treatment options. Medical professionals and cancer patients alike are eager to find common ground regarding communication.

In 2013, the National Cancer Institute sponsored an ongoing study regarding patient-physician communication. The research involves oncology communication intervention called Values and Options in Cancer Care (VOICE).

Although the VOICE study is still in its infancy, it sheds light on the urgent need for open lines of communication between doctors and the people they treat.

Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardoza hit the nail in on the head in 1914, when he said, “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body.”

Patients and their loved ones can make more informed decisions regarding mesothelioma treatment when armed with the facts and the means to gather those facts.

Get Access to Free Resources for Patients & Loved Ones
Free Mesothelioma Resources