[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
June 5, 1987

The Bad News

Author Affiliations



JAMA. 1987;257(21):2959. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390210107037

"I guess I have to say this, but you're going to be all right. If this is breast cancer, it's the earliest kind we know."

His words are meant to reassure, but I almost burst into tears. I am a 39-year-old physician who has just had a screening mammogram, having waited to engage in the procedure about as long as a physician who recommends it to her patients can wait.

My surgeon is the most trustworthy I know, someone kind and thoughtful, a superb clinician, a good communicator. There is no mass and he wishes to review the films with the radiologist before making the decision as to whether surgery is necessary. But I am a student of the medical interview. I know surgery will be recommended.

I think over and over, what is it about his words that is so upsetting to me? I try to dissect their meaning.