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Should Doctors Break News To Patients By Telephone?

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naomi24 | 11:48 Mon 18th Jan 2021 | Body & Soul
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A friend had an operation for bowel cancer. Unfortunately the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and now ‘something’ has been found on her liver. She received a call late last week asking her to attend an appointment with the consultant early this week - but she is dreading it because she fears the worst. In circumstances like this, rather than give patients days or weeks of worry, would it be kinder to tell them the results of tests, whether good or bad, immediately over the phone?

I would rather know straightaway. What do you think?


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Me too. Would they tell her over the phone if she rang and asked them to?
waiting a week for the news would just add to the torment for me
Yes, it would be kinder, well, for me it would be.
We faced an identical call a few years back. It was a Friday afternoon from the secretary at about 16:45. We spent three days very frightened until the appt on the Tues. It wasn't good news as the tests showed he was beginning to relapse(which we suspected obv).

Waiting is far worse! Torturous is not an understatement. I think they ought to tell people on the phone - but that is our experience only.

PS my husb is now cancer free and in remaining remission and even a potential relapse can be beaten - please try remind your friend of this X
Should read: Torturous **IS** an understatement
For me something like that, they should be bringing her into the surgery and speaking face to face sooner than a week,it should be next day at latest, things can be rearranged for this Im sure, if only to put her mind at rest as it were, I wouldnt want to wait either as others have said, it would add to the torment for me as well!!
i confess i would rather know in person, even if it meant waiting a few days - but that wouldn't obviously suit everyone.
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Joe, it is less than a week. She got the call on Friday - her appointment is tomorrow.
joeski - if you're already fighting / have fought cancer even waiting one day to be told face to face is too long, (in our experience). The moment you get told to come in and see someone the fear begins.

Because (logistically) consultants cannot see everyone on the same days test results are back I believe, ( for us ) telling us on the phone would have been kinder.

But everyone is different.

Every cancer patient knows that when you get a call telling you to come in sooner than the original follow up it's likely to be bad news.

Naomi - snap then husb got his call Friday was seen the Tues.
Am I the only one who wouldn't want to know full stop? In my lifetime I've had 2 cancer scares and each time, I've been happy not to get the results and wait as long as possible for them. Maybe I have head in the sand syndrome!
If they are arrogant, rude, uncooperative and NHS, then let them wait until their next OP.appt.

If the have been appreciative, cooperative, understandings and helpful, NHS or Private then a telephone call is desirable.

That was my approach.
I would prefer to know. Although, I suspect it's more to do with confidentiality, even good results aren't given by phone... and maybe making sure someone has support.
One of my friends (who died from breast cancer) was advised to bring someone with her for her results. Clearly not good news, but I'm also not sure how it would be responsible to have told her over the phone, either.
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//even good results aren't given by phone//

I've been given good results by phone .... more than once.
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sqad, did you give bad news by telephone?
sqad did you ever think that apparent arrogance and so on could be caused by fear?
Naomi....yes I did,many times..
Ok, naomi. They aren't really supposed to be. But in any case, people are in different situations, and while I imagine it really must be torturous to wait and imagine the worst... to be told over the phone, when you live alone /have young children to look after etc, with no support is not fair either.
There's never going to be a good time for the worst news, but I think they have some responsibility in making sure any questions are answered, the patient properly understands, gets the right information and has any support they need.
I've had good results via the phone.

Wouldn't it be an awful waste of time to call someone in to tell them their blood tests have come back normal? Not everyone close by to their hospital or GP surgery.

And I would want to know the results straight away.
Wolfgang.....what one learned very early on was to spot the troublemaker..............

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