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October 4, 1985

Coping With Chemotherapy

Author Affiliations

Chapman Regional Cancer Center Joplin, Mo

JAMA. 1985;254(13):1828-1829. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360130164052

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Doctors nowadays are blamed for failure to communicate. The patient's questions are somehow not asked or answered. Problems that the doctor perceives are described incomprehensibly. A barrier of frustration and anger impairs our ability to heal and comfort.

Is the problem more common and severe in oncology? Ms Bruning, a woman who underwent adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer, quotes her oncologist: "Taking care of dying patients tends to have a chilling effect on the doctor. It is very easy to be very cold and unable to hear about the aspects of life that are difficult. It's extremely important for the oncologist to be available and willing to hear about the aspect of human existence. There are other people to whom the patient can talk, but it's difficult if the doctor is just writing the prescription and coldly looking at the size of the tumor." This oncologist says he feels "tremendous