The 2022 JAMA report, Association of Prognostic Understanding with Health Care Use Among Older Adults with Advanced Cancer, revealed a devastating gap in oncology care:

Nearly 60% of patients with terminal cancer thought their cancer could be cured.

To recap a basic principle of OncoPT, terminal cancer is not curable.  Terminal cancer is what is most likely going to kill that person.

This gross misunderstanding is not a reflection on our patients. This is not because they are uneducated, this is not because they are a certain race, this is not because they come from a certain socioeconomic background.  

This is a direct reflection of our own failings as health care professionals.  We are the problem.

And it starts with our own discomfort in discussing death & dying.  Culturally, we are very uncomfortable talking about death and dying in our own lives. And when we don’t talk about it in our own lives, we are keeping this information from our patients.  

This gatekeeping of information is robbing patients of the opportunity to make informed decisions about their care, to spend their last days how they want to, to die on their own terms.

We owe it to our patients to have the difficult conversations.    

In this episode, I’m bringing back my interview with Dr. Liz O’Riordan, the breast surgeon who got breast cancer & host of Don’t Ignore The Elephant Podcast.

Liz encourages us to have the difficult conversations by having them first ourselves.  Listen in to learn how.

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT.  And remember you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.

“For me, it’s about helping them live when they leave your room.”

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