Capping off my posts about the challenges of minor symptoms, here's an excerpt of my essay for clinicians.
If asked for a challenging topic in oncology, I doubt you'd answer “minor symptoms in long-term survivors”—i.e., changes or discomforts that don't interfere with patients' ability to function. Yet your skills in history taking and time management, and your clinical judgment, are tested to the max when long-term survivors in your practice develop symptoms like a mild backache, general tiredness or low-grade nausea. How can you best help them? The answer begins with an appreciation of your patients' perspective....
Dialing my doctors' office, I repeated in my mind what they'd made clear at every visit:
* You help us when you report symptoms, no matter how minor.
* Evaluations end needless worry and enable you to benefit from treatment, if needed.
* A price of survival is the hassle of undergoing evaluations sooner than if you'd never had cancer.
More than you want to avoid a false alarm, you want to avoid missing the chance to improve the outcome.
Minor symptoms in long-term survivors are no small matter. They require the same expertise, compassion, and dedication as you bring to the problem of cancer. By talking with your staff about the challenges, you can brainstorm potential solutions that fit with your particular practice. Your efforts will serve your mission to cure as often as possible and to comfort always.
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