Many mesothelioma patients feel uncomfortable disagreeing with doctorsThe National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society agree that, for patients with mesothelioma, it's important to listen to the doctor's advice and ask them plenty of questions about the disease. However, it's one thing to trust your physician(s) and another to be afraid to question their (or his, or her) advice.
Yet, according to a newly published survey, many patients are. A study appearing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that just 14 percent of cardiac patients would openly voice their dissent if their doctor's advice clashed with their personal preferences.
Participation vs. 'pushing back'
The problem, said Dr. Michael Barry, the president of the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation (IMDF), is that patients have a hard time knowing how involved they are allowed to be in their own clinical trajectory.
"We know when patients are surveyed directly they really want to participate in their medical decisions, but are very nervous about this idea of pushing back against doctor recommendations for fear of being labeled a ‘bad patient,'" he told Reuters Health.
Barry, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, helped fund the study through the IMDF. He explained that the idea that a patient has no say in his or her treatment is antiquated at best.
"I think getting over that culture - that there's a right answer based as a clinician on your preferences - is what we're facing," he told the news source. "Clinicians are the experts in the options and the outcomes of the options, but patients are experts in what's best for them."
Hesitant to disagree, even over an obvious error
In the survey, more than 70 percent of patients said that they preferred to make medical decisions in partnership with their physician, and more than 90 percent could see themselves asking questions or explaining preferences.
But only about one in seven respondents could imagine openly disagreeing with a doctor (which is not the same as ultimately not taking their advice).
Is this one-sidedness endemic to oncology? It may be. After all, the survey came on the heels of an in-depth study of perceived medical errors, which appeared in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In it, one in five cancer patients recalled noticing a medical or communication-based error made by their doctor, yet very few respondents said they ever formally brought it up.
Such statistics highlight the need for an open, free and easy dialogue between oncologists and mesothelioma patients.
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