What not to tell patients after cancer surgery

A recent viewpoint article posted on JAMA Oncology pointed to a single common phrase that can lead to misunderstandings, medical mistrust and even refusal of necessary treatment. 

It's a classic case of miscommunication: an oncology surgeon says "we got it all," after performing surgery for cancer, and a patient hears "you're cured." 

What most patients don't know is that removal of cancer tumors doesn't mean they're cancer free, and this could lead patients to refuse chemotherapy after surgery due to the misunderstanding.

"Because patients primarily hear about surgery as being therapeutic, they are primed not to consider the diagnostic function of surgery," according to the article. 

Other research found patients were optimistic about surgery as a possible cure for cancer. One study from 2015 found 80 percent of subjects with lung cancer and 87.5 percent of subjects with colorectal cancer thought surgery would cure them regardless of prognoses.

Being cognizant of word choice and carefully explaining how effective cancer surgery is in treating cancer can help clear up the possible misunderstanding associated with "we got it all."

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