We all have those patients who come to their initial consultation in the oncology clinic armed with reams of information from the Internet. Some of these folks, usually the most medically sophisticated or well-educated, are better prepared for their consultation as a result. Having navigated the web successfully, they're able to ask appropriate questions about their treatment plan, side effects, and the like.
Unfortunately, though, these patients and their families are the exception.
More commonly, patients come to their initial consultation with the cancer specialist feeling lost at sea. They've just received potentially life-threatening news, so their heads are swimming. In their search for firm ground, they turn to that all-knowing source, the Internet, where they're hit by seemingly endless waves of information.
And unless they've got a deep and broad medical or scientific background (and sometimes, even if they do), these folks have no guidance as to how to navigate through these treacherous waters. Which sites are trustworthy and reliable? Which information is outdated? Will I be a candidate for this new “breakthrough” treatment?
Over the past several years, I've found myself in the challenging position of having to navigate the “cancer journeys” of several close family members.
In fact, three out of my four parents were diagnosed with advanced malignancies. Between late 2001 and early 2007, my father and both of my wife's parents went through treatment for advanced or metastatic malignancies. All three died and we miss them terribly. However, we're both quite grateful that, as a cancer specialist, I was able to minimize the anxiety and other psychological hurdles during their treatment courses.
Who provides reliable advice to the vast majority of patients and families unfortunate enough to lack an oncology background? In cancer clinics today, that's a nearly impossible feat for the attending oncologist and increasingly difficult for even the most caring and nurturing oncology nurse. Pamphlets offered by medical societies are a start, but are often too cursory. Disease-focused textbooks miss the mark to the other extreme, with too much detail.
In summary, as both a provider and a consumer of cancer care services, I've found that essential information for patients and their families about cancer treatment is sorely lacking. Although the Internet is a critical information source for most people, many websites are misleading and some are potentially harmful.
Patients' journeys through cancer diagnosis and treatment are harrowing enough, without added anxiety fed by the unknown.
Creation of better resources for our patients and their support teams must be a priority.
Which is why I wrote my new guidebook, When Cancer Hits Home: Cancer Treatment and Prevention Options for Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate and Other Common Types, with the aim of discussing prevention and treatment based on scientific evidence but without excessive medical jargon, with the goal of filling the gap between the many cancer survivor biographies and technical references already on the marketplace today. PATRICK MAGUIRE, MD, of Coastal Carolina Radiation Oncology in Wilmington, North Carolina, is principal investigator of two Cancer Disparities Research Partnership grants from the National Cancer Institute.DR. MAGUIRE'S book, When Cancer Hits Home: Cancer Treatment and Prevention Options for Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate and Other Common Types (ISBN 0615391117), is available in bookstores and on Amazon. Bulk rate pricing is available for hospitals and cancer centers upon request at patrickmaguiremd.com.
DR. MAGUIRE'S book, When Cancer Hits Home: Cancer Treatment and Prevention Options for Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate and Other Common Types (ISBN 0615391117), is available in bookstores and on Amazon. Bulk rate pricing is available for hospitals and cancer centers upon request at patrickmaguiremd.com.