Cancer, the right word is a cure for it

Cancer, the right word is a cure for it

The challenge against cancer also involves correct communication between doctor and patient on diagnosis and therapeutic path

When embarking on a journey together, it is necessary for people to be well aware of the objectives of their journey and above all to speak the same language. Otherwise there is a real risk that one of the two may derail from the path taken, not so much by choice as by objective difficulty in using the terms.

Thus, when the challenge is cancer, it becomes essential that the words have a unique meaning for the doctor who utters them and for the patient who listens to them. If the doctor talks about "diagnosis" and the patient translates "fear", if hearing a relapse translates into anguish, challenging the disease is even more difficult. To overcome this "communication interruption", a campaign is now starting which aims precisely to encourage the construction of a common language in oncology.

A challenge to misunderstandings

The initiative is called "The sense of words – Another communication is possible" and aims to respond to the need to improve the quality of relationships between people with cancer, their caregivers and doctors starting with the word, a key element of the care relationship.

The campaign is promoted by Takeda Italia in partnership with AIL – Italian Association against Leukemia-Lymphomas and Myeloma Onlus, AIPaSIM – Italian Association of Myelodysplastic Syndrome Patients, Salute Donna Onlus, SIPO – Italian Society of Psycho-Oncology and WALCE onlus – Women Against Lung Cancer in Europe and with the patronage of the AIOM Foundation. From today until November 8, on the web platform The meaning of the words patients, family caregivers and specialists will be able to indicate the meanings that they associate with a group of 13 important words that articulate the care relationship – prevention, diagnosis, tumor, prognosis, path , intervention, PET, metastasis, treatment, remission, relapse, chronicity, research.

The words were mapped by a group of researchers led by Giuseppe Antonelli, Full Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pavia. The consultation will result, under the supervision of a technical-scientific Board, of an Emotional Dictionary, an Atlas of keywords in oncology with the meanings shared between specialists and patients to be disseminated in Oncology Centers and in the sections of the Associations.

"Misunderstandings between doctor and patient can have negative repercussions on treatments as well as on the relationship – explains Antonelli – being able to collaborate all together, linguists, clinicians, patients, patient associations, sociologists, psychologists, is an excellent opportunity to begin to fill that delay between search for a common language and therapeutic search. Hence the originality of the initiative "The sense of words" and the idea of ​​arriving at the definition of a shared vocabulary, capable of contributing to the improvement of the doctor-patient relationship thanks to a collaboration, also linguistic, based on trust and empathy".

Communication of the diagnosis

The words between doctor and patient are considered to all intents and purposes as a "moment of treatment" yet, there is not always a concordance between what the doctor says and what the patient perceives, especially when it comes to communicating the diagnosis and the therapeutic path. It is enough to think only at the moment of communicating the diagnosis: for the doctor it has a clear meaning, for the patient the immediate translation of the diagnosis becomes “fear”.

As Sergio Amadori, AIL National President explains, “The moment of diagnosis is a shock, a very strong trauma. The patient is stunned, invaded by a negative charge that increases if the doctor does not propose the different therapeutic options and the path to be followed gradually to allow the patient and family to metabolize the new dramatic reality ".

Amadori continues: "Even for the doctor, communicating the diagnosis can lead to problems, especially if it involves giving" bad "news, because he is culturally unprepared to bear the emotional impact of the other. The word that is associated with diagnosis in the patient's mind and psyche is "fear". Linked to the uncertainty of the outcome, the precariousness of his life, the emotional, relational, social and working upheaval that involves a diagnosis of blood cancer for himself and his family. In these cases the doctor must choose and treat the words he will say with great attention, only in this way will he be able to treat the patient globally ”.

Category: Health
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