Friday 17th July 2020 It is essential to monitor a neck lump closely, measuring and remarking if it is hard, mobile or fixed. It is also important to record the number of nodes found, if they are changing over a period of time, and refer the patient urgently if there...
Resource: discussing suspected cancer symptoms over the phone
Latest from the Blog
Potential pitfall: Fatigue is a common presenting problem in primary care, and yet it is important to remember that fatigue can represent a more serious condition. Many patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) have few or no symptoms at the time they are...
Thursday 25th June 2020 Dr Ben Noble’s RCGP award-winning Cancer Maps is a popular interactive reference tool for GPs based on the NICE NG12 guideline; primarily, the tool is designed to be used during consultations to help clinicians assess possible cancer symptoms....
Friday 19th June 2020 For many patients, the relief of surviving their treatment or managing their condition can be followed with questions about other aspects of their life. Impotence can be very common after treatment for colorectal cancer; often affecting up to 90%...
Thursday 7th May 2020
Discussing suspected cancer symptoms over the phone can be challenging. To navigate this, we have created a downloadable PDF resource for primary care teams, in partnership with The Maguire Communication Skills Training Unit. This resource covers five important principles:
1. Eliciting the patient’s perception is key
If a patient is already worried that their symptoms might indicate something serious, it will allow you to gently acknowledge and confirm that their symptoms are cause for concern and will need to be investigated further. This is much easier for the patient to manage than if the information is introduced cold.
Because there are no visual cues on the phone this makes listening for verbal cues doubly important. Listen for tone of voice, sighs, silence, words or phrases that suggest a difficult emotion, worry or concern.
2. Warning shots
Prefaced with words such as “unfortunately”, “sadly”, “I’m afraid” followed by a pause will help people to prepare for the information/bad news whether or not they suspect.
3. Deliver the news with compassion and honesty
Bad news is bad news and people will be upset. However your kindness and compassion can make a huge difference to how they cope. Pause frequently to allow information to be absorbed.
Verbally acknowledging people’s feelings and worries helps to reduce their distress and anxiety. This is showing a high level of compassion.
5. Acknowledge and clarify questions
Once you have acknowledged the new emotions, find out the fears and worries before providing reassurance or further information.
Further information and next steps can be discussed when the person has had opportunity to voice their concerns and questions.
Find out more:
- Download The Maguire Communication Skills Training Unit’s resource here