I enjoyed reading “8 rules on how to talk to a cancer patient” because I think much of it is written with ‘tongue in cheek’. Great title!
In UK we might even spell the word ‘twit’ slightly differently (UK people will get it!). Some of the rules are directed at doctors and I’m sure some doctors will laugh (if you’re a doctor and you didn’t laugh, sorry). I think one or two are a bit harsh and could potentially backfire and at least one I partly disagree with. Personally I try to balance my reactions to not come over as a ‘pity party’ and something which is genuinely offensive or upsetting to me as a cancer patient. I appreciate understanding and empathy, perhaps sympathy, but I certainly don’t want pity.
I’ve added rule number 9 which is a true story I picked up in my own community which I found absolutely unacceptable and I certainly did not laugh. Thanks to ‘Patient A’ for the quote.
You may also enjoy this article which contains 16 ‘red flags’ that might mean it’s time to find a new doctor. Easier in some countries than others and I suspect we have all encountered at least one of them. I don’t think we should be changing doctors too often and we shouldn’t be changing just because of one of these ‘red flags’ (although the example above is pretty offensive).
Another good one is an actor based video which discusses about the things people sometimes say (often clumsily) to patients that often don’t hit the right chord – check out my article “Things not to say to a someone with cancer“.
And of course we all look so well as Neuroendocrine Cancer patients – but you should see our insides. Thanks for reading
Whenever I need to know anything nowadays, I mostly just look on the internet and sometimes I ask my virtual PA ‘Alexa’ to look for me! However, you need to be very careful in acceptance of what is credible information and what isn’t.
As a relatively experienced health blogger and activist, I like to think of myself as ‘internet savvy’, so I occasionally find myself using ‘Dr Google’ to diagnose my aches, pains and unusual feelings (and I confess to using it to help others). I mostly find there are no real or definitive answers online for patient issues. Although I seem to learn something on each piece of research, I also find some really worrying stuff. Some symptoms can have dozens of reasons and I often realise how difficult it can often be for a doctor faced with unusual, vague and nonsensical symptoms!
On a recent online symptom check for lower left abdominal spasms, I discovered I was pregnant with an alien baby!
The internet is really powerful but also really dangerous. For example if you look up “best treatment for cancer”, you have an astonishing 300 million offerings. Right there with rigorous, evidence-based sites, there are those offering fermented foods and DIY cancer cure kits (e.g. fake healthcare news and cancer myths). Worried patients sometimes need help to distinguish between sensible advice and fanciful claims/ miracle cures.
When I combine my own experience with what I read on patient forums, I can see that internet searching is not for the faint of heart. Some people are already in a state of anxiety before they started searching Dr Google’s archives, and what they find has probably made their anxiety worse. In fact, the rise of the internet has created a new term for those who worry themselves sick and continually misdiagnose symptoms on the internet – ‘Cyberchondriac’.
Even when we know ‘googling’ our symptoms won’t end well, we don’t seem to care, we just need answers! Searching authoritative sites is therefore really important and the availability of proper medical information online is actually putting more power in the hands of patients. It’s how we as patients exploit it that is really important. Just as you can find examples of ‘cyberchondria’ online, you can also find examples of patient power in a doctor’s office. Worryingly, you can also find examples of ‘Dr Google’ being right after being dismissed by real doctors, sometimes resulting in patient illness or even death.
The medical community need to accept that searching for more information is a natural patient instinct, not a slight against one’s doctor. The profession will have to get better at educating the next generation of doctors now that Dr Google is here to stay and, I think, to help. That said, I don’t believe the internet will ever replace the profound human dimension of the doctor-patient relationship.
Tips for online searching:
1. Don’t actually use internet search engines if you can help it, go to a reputable site and then search that. For NETs try RonnyAllan.NET
2. Try to be specific as possible because vague search terms will result in frightening answers, and in practice any symptom can be read as a sign for nearly every single horrible illness, or a worsening or recurrence of an existing condition.
3. Less common conditions are less common, and minor symptoms often resolve themselves in time. If you have more worrying symptoms, or if your symptoms are changing or progressing, then go ‘offline’ i.e. visit your GP or primary care facility. If you’re sure of your facts, be assertive until you’re convinced otherwise. However, accept that the internet may be wrong when you seek medical help.
5. If you’re someone with an already diagnosed serious illness, theworry that goes with that is quite understandable – check out my 8 tips article. However, the same tips apply although you may now have established your own specific sources of advice in addition the general health areas.
6. Charities and associations for specific conditions are also a good information source but just note they may not have the best or up to date simply because they have been granted a ‘charity’ or equivalent status, so be careful, I’ve been some complete rubbish on these sites. Patient forums can be ‘frighteningly good’ but they can also be ‘good at frightening’. Personally, I try not to compare myself to strangers on the internet.
OK, the lead graphic is slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ but for those who are very anxious, it’s a reality. I can see from my own group that many Neuroendocrine Cancer patients have become very adept at searching online – useful because many still need a lot of help.
Be careful out there it’s dangerous. I have a private group for patients and caregivers where I like to ‘keep it real’. Check it out here.