How Physicians’ Poor Communication Skills Can Fail Mesothelioma Patients

Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is devastating. The rare, asbestos-related form of cancer has no cure and is so aggressive that most patients die within just two years of the disease being identified. While physicians and researchers are working hard to find effective treatments and methods for improving both survival and quality of life, a recent study suggests that they would also do well to focus some of their attention on themselves so that they can do a better job of speaking with their patients.

Japanese study points to need for physician empathy

The study was conducted by researchers from St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo, who conducted quality of life surveys on 73 patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Each patient was asked two open-ended questions about the care that they had received, and how it could be improved upon. 

A significant number of the patients, allowed to voice whatever concerns they had openly, mentioned failures on the part of their physicians when it came to providing explanations. Many noted that their physicians did not seem as empathetic of their situation as they felt was appropriate in such a difficult, emotional situation.

Why Empathy is So Important in Mesothelioma Care

There is no question that malignant mesothelioma requires a swift and aggressive medical response in order to give patients the best chance for improved survival time. But physicians are tasked with treating both their patient’s condition and their patient. Ignoring the emotional needs of a patient who has been diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal cancer leaves patients feeling even more isolated and hopeless. 

According to study author Yasuko Nagamatsu, “Patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma had a variety of unmet needs from their physicians. Physicians who provide care to MPM patients should receive training in both communication skills and stress management.” In addition to offering surgery, chemotherapy and other clinical protocols, physicians who want to serve all of their patients’ needs would do well to sit and answer all of their patients’ questions, to make themselves available to provide explanations as more questions arise in the future, and to be more empathetic of the enormous level of anxiety, stress and depression that accompanies a mesothelioma diagnosis.

If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, there are numerous resources available to you, including the support offered by the compassionate Patient Advocates at Contact us today at  1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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