A prostate cancer expert reemphasizes importance of open communication between patients and healthcare providers.
Bobby Liaw, MD: In thinking about ways to keep people on treatment and making sure that we do everything possible to minimize side effects and optimize treatment response, it's always very important for us to have open communications. It's 1 of the first things that I tell patients, even on the first visit that they have with me, that it's important for us to have open dialogue about their concerns. It's not necessarily only just about what drug that they're on at that particular time, but concerns about the disease overall. We find opportunities to educate them on the subject of their own care. It helps them to be much more engaged in their own management — but also helps with emotional challenges, because I think it's very difficult for someone to have a cancer diagnosis, and how they process it is very different from person to person. Even though it's a subject that I bring up the first time that I meet with them, I find that it's also very worthwhile to reinforce this offer for open dialogue periodically, especially around times where there may be issues with disease or treatment changes.
I will emphasize also that it's common for patients to not want to discuss some of their concerns with their physicians. Sometimes they might feel that it might convey a lack of faith in their doctor. Luckily, medicine is a bit of a team sport. Oftentimes, I find that the patients that are maybe not as willing to open up to me might feel a little bit more comfortable sharing concerns with someone else on my team, such as my nurse practitioner or my social worker. Whenever I feel like there's some resistance, I ask my social worker and my nurse practitioner to see if they can probe a little bit more. Sometimes, instead of trying to get it out of the patients themselves, family members and children, can be very, very valuable sources of information. Sometimes I even let them know that even if they're not asking, there are resources for mental health that we can refer to, such as therapists or psychiatrists. They may not necessarily take me up on my offer right away but letting them know that we have that support structure there may help them to understand that “if I ask for it later on, that's a resource that's open to me.”
Transcript edited for clarity.