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Question
Posted by: Maria | 2010/10/05

Cancer

Hey CS

My husband''s much loved aunt is dying of colon cancer. Her oncologist told her in Feb that she has 6 months left, and since then she has suffered through chemo but never told anybody what the doc said. She only admitted it yesterday when the results of the latest scans and blood tests came back and showed that her condition has worsened considerably.

The oncologist has treated her really badly throughout, not returning phone calls, going on holiday when she had an appointment and not letting her know etc. My husband feels we should take her file and test results to another doctor for a second opinion. I''m not sure where I stand on that issue, it seems a bit futile at this point?

How do we talk to her, what do we say? What do we say to her sister (my mil) who is so close to her they could have been twins? I don''t know what to do.

Scratches behind the ears for kitty.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

There are some excellent oncologists, but ome seem extraordinarily clumsy as regards basic people skills. Often they are competent at treating the cancer, less so at treating the person with the cancer.
There's usually no harm in a second opinion, as it seems reasonable that your family has some problems in having full confidence in this oncologist. The issue is WHY one wants such an opinion and would it really benefit your aunt.
Do you as a group feel that he has been a bit careless in respecting her feelings ( which would sound like it's a fair assessment ) ? Or does one really have grounds for suspecting that her condition is less grave than he has concluded - or that different treatment would genuinely make a real difference to the length and quality of her life ? Maybe not the second, which might be better grounds for persuading her to go for a second opinion.
My concern would be that if there's no realistic chance of a better outcome from changing oncologists, there's some risk of damaging her confidence, and engendering regrets that she might have made the wrong decisions, which would not be any benefit at this stage of her illness.
One needs to discuss the isues with her sister to help her see that what matters is what is best for the aunt herself - too easily we get trapped into demanding different and more aggressive treatments for her to meet OUR needs, and not hers. A counsellor may help if necessary.
For the aunt, one needs to gently chat with her, to understand how she sees her situation and what she wants for herself. The Cancer Association should be able to advise, ascould her nearest Hospice, as to teratment more focussed on preserving her comfort and quality of life for as long as possible. The less one can expect quantity of life, the more important it is to focus on quality.
Cat says Thanks

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2
Our users say:
Posted by: Hope* | 2010/10/06

Hi maria,

Its sad that your hubs aunt should be treated this way. Sorry to hear that. Sending hugs.

Reply to Hope*
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/10/05

There are some excellent oncologists, but ome seem extraordinarily clumsy as regards basic people skills. Often they are competent at treating the cancer, less so at treating the person with the cancer.
There's usually no harm in a second opinion, as it seems reasonable that your family has some problems in having full confidence in this oncologist. The issue is WHY one wants such an opinion and would it really benefit your aunt.
Do you as a group feel that he has been a bit careless in respecting her feelings ( which would sound like it's a fair assessment ) ? Or does one really have grounds for suspecting that her condition is less grave than he has concluded - or that different treatment would genuinely make a real difference to the length and quality of her life ? Maybe not the second, which might be better grounds for persuading her to go for a second opinion.
My concern would be that if there's no realistic chance of a better outcome from changing oncologists, there's some risk of damaging her confidence, and engendering regrets that she might have made the wrong decisions, which would not be any benefit at this stage of her illness.
One needs to discuss the isues with her sister to help her see that what matters is what is best for the aunt herself - too easily we get trapped into demanding different and more aggressive treatments for her to meet OUR needs, and not hers. A counsellor may help if necessary.
For the aunt, one needs to gently chat with her, to understand how she sees her situation and what she wants for herself. The Cancer Association should be able to advise, ascould her nearest Hospice, as to teratment more focussed on preserving her comfort and quality of life for as long as possible. The less one can expect quantity of life, the more important it is to focus on quality.
Cat says Thanks

Reply to cybershrink

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