Cancer patients tell of callousness

Cancer patients speak out frankly today about their treatment in a unique report documenting their experiences. Many say they are not given enough information and want more honesty from the doctors dealing with them.

The study involves people from four regions of England, all of whom say they had not received enough information, and some information was deliberately withheld. The doctor was considered the best person to provide information.

Patients wanted to know about diagnostic procedures to avoid fear and upset from lack of understanding of what to expect. They also expected information on procedures and potential success rates, side-effects, post- treatment symptoms and all aspects of living with cancer. Many patients reported that the attitude of health professionals prevented them developing an effective working relationship.

Cancer patients wanted to be treated with respect for their personal dignity and as people with individual needs - not as a tumour to be processed.Patients came up with repeated examples of thoughtlessness or callous behaviour at the point of diagnosis. A woman recalled: "He said `It's not looking good, we will have to have your right breast removed tomorrow', and that was it; he walked out and that was the only thing I knew. It took 20 seconds and he never mentioned cancer."

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