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The importance of using the word “cancer” when delivering a diagnosis

How should a cancer diagnosis be delivered? This was a topic recently explored by Stanford resident Shara Yurkiewicz, MD, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times:

I haven't been a doctor for very long, but I've noticed that we tend to shy away from the word "cancer" when another diagnosis is just as likely. A swollen leg can be the result of an infection, a clot or "some other process." Unrelenting back pain can be a symptom of a pulled muscle, a slipped disc or "something more serious."

Yurkiewicz describes how not being direct and saying "cancer" can cause confusion for patients and families -- a lesson she learned the hard way. She also describes how she delivers bad news: She's direct, she expresses empathy, she talks about next steps, and -- yes -- she uses the word "cancer."

Previously: Ten ways to improve cancer communication to patients

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