The unspoken sentiment towards patients with advanced cancer

A powerful reminder of the risks of being labelled as a cancer patient, rather than a person who has cancer, from an oncologist discussing treatment needs with other doctors. Quote:

I have since learned to emphasize a patient’s clinical status first, then their diagnosis. I have also made it a point to teach our fellows that it is our patients who have cancer, and they should not be perceived as “cancer patients.” Cancer is a noun, not an adjective, and perhaps it should not be used as such.

On a practical point, I have discovered doing so makes a difference. When sending patients to urgent care, I describe them functionally first, then give the history: “Mrs. ___ is a 48-year-old mother who works part-time, with a performance status of 80%. She is being treated for metastatic ovarian cancer.” I find I argue less with those on the other end of the phone call to get the appropriate level of care for my patients with cancer.

In an ideal world, all of us are defined by who we are, who we love, our passions, and our accomplishments. I do not believe any of us should be described by whatever medical condition we happen to face. In oncology, it is an ideal that we should embrace, to ensure quality care for those who have entrusted us, literally, with their lives.

The unspoken sentiment towards patients with advanced cancer.


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