Stuart L. Goldberg, MD, Discusses How Physicians Can Better Communicate Cancer Diagnoses

The expert from Hackensack University Medical Center explained how the complexity of cancer makes it important for physicians to spend time communicating with their patients what their diagnosis entails.

Stuart L. Goldberg, MD, from Hackensack University Medical Center, spoke in an interview with CancerNetwork® about how health care providers can serve as a network for those facing a cancer diagnosis and help them to better understand their diagnosis. 


Well, cancer has become extremely complex. The day that somebody had breast cancer and that’s all they have is no longer there, now it’s breast cancer, it’s not just even the stage, it’s what hormones, what genetics, what profiles, and this becomes very complex for a patient to understand, especially when they just were diagnosed and don’t understand even the basics of the disease. Then, try to explain to them how genomics, such as tests like the OncotypeDx, which now directs therapy. Very complex science why you don’t get chemotherapy if you have a certain genomic score.

And so, we need to spend a lot more time with our patients, educating them not just about the disease, but also the genetic implications of what we’re finding in the disease, in the tissue itself. And that’s separate than the genomics of inheritance. Many patients get confused between that. They think that, oh, if you found a genetic mutation in my tumor, does that mean my kids are going to have this tumor? And we have to explain that, no this is somatic versus hereditary. So, it becomes a very complex, and we have to spend a lot more time educating. 

My colleagues and I worked out of Georgetown and some of the psychologists down there who were working with us found that physicians are very hesitant to talk about some of these, because it’s becoming so complex and spends a lot of time. And so, we really need to work on how we communicate this very complex genomic information, what its implications are, and when it does infect other family members, but also how it affects the individual tumor.