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Tips for Communicating With Your Prostate Cancer Healthcare Team

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Published on November 4, 2015

There are many players on a healthcare team—physicians, nurse and care partners to name a few—but communication is key in helping the patient receive the best care. Prostate cancer experts, Dr. Sumit Subudhi and Zita Dubauskas Lim, share their advice.

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Transcript | Tips for Communicating With Your Prostate Cancer Healthcare Team

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:     

What I heard from you earlier, and what I’m hearing you reinforce is, sure.  There [are] going to be side effects.  It’s part of the landscape.  But you didn’t hesitate to say, I got this.  I can fix that.  If you let me know what’s going on, I can get you hooked up pretty quick.

So since we’re talking about a large group of very proud men here, how do we get them to admit that there’s something going on?

Zita Dubauskas Lim:        

I guess this is where I think when we get to know each other, we develop—this is where building the trust is so important.  And hopefully over time, it may not happen right away, but you’ll—and that’s also part of the reason why we ask patients to keep diaries.

Because sometimes it’s hard to remember all the side effects.  Today—maybe the last three days, I’ve been feeling good, so I’m saying I feel great.  But actually, we tend to forget that three weeks ago, I was heavily nauseated, this and that.  So even if you’re not very verbal, maybe you can at least try to bring a diary and keep a—especially my engineer patients are very good about this.  They’ll bring like whole graphs of their blood pressures and their symptoms.  So I love that.  I love my engineer patients.

Because they’re actually—even though they’re maybe not verbal, they bring me that data, and we can work with that. 

Jeff Folloder:     

So a very important question.  Are patients who take an active role in this process, do they enjoy better outcomes?

Zita Dubauskas Lim:        

I think we all agree they do better.

Dr. Subudhi:       

I think the whole key is a team approach.  I think patients coming to see us that think we’re just gonna give them the magic pill or a magic drug, that’s just not possible at this point.

We hope we get there one day, but we’re not there.  And the team approach doesn’t just include the doctor.  It includes our nurses, our mid-level providers such as Zita, as well as the people that take your vital sign and everything.  That’s all part of the team.  But you also have control of your team.  It could be your significant other.  It can be your kids.  It can be your support groups, for whether it’s church or temple or synagogue, anything. 

But I think it’s important to have a team approach in this.  And I have a rule with my patients when they come see me.  They have six months to quit smoking or using tobacco products, because I will work hard for my patients, but they also need to work hard for themselves.  And so I think, again, team approach is the best way to do it.

Zita Dubauskas Lim:        

One other thing I just wanted to mention.  As part of your management team, when you get diagnosed with cancer, obviously that takes center stage.

But I do always encourage folks to maintain their relationships with their other physicians, their primary care physician, their psychiatrist, all those other—because even if we cure your cancer, but you end up having a heart attack or some other—or depression that’s not managed properly, and we want you to have good quality of life.  We want you to—don’t forget about including them.  Don’t exclude them from your treatment plan—team.

Dr. Kim:                 

And so, just to reemphasize, communication is the key.  And also in terms of being proactive in your care, I think eating a healthy diet and being physically active throughout your cancer journey, I think, is really important. 

Jeff Folloder:     

I’m gonna bring something up that the patients in the audience probably won’t like.  Let’s talk a little bit about the tattletales.

Caregivers have an interesting perspective as to what’s going on in this process.  And a lot of times, they see things that the patients either don’t want to see or can’t see.  Do we encourage them to tell the truth regardless of what happens to the patient’s psyche when that happens? 

Dr. Subudhi:       

Yes.  I think overall, the truth is always gonna help us make better decisions.  For example, I will just lower the dose of the therapy I’m giving, because we think we’re giving the best dose which is gonna kill the cancer, but we also have side effects that we know we induce or the treatments can cause.  And there’s a sweet spot.  And sometimes that sweet spot requires lowering the dose a little bit, so you can get less of the side effects and more of the cancer-killing effects.

And so having that information can be very helpful.  And the truth is, before I walk into every room, or any room with a patient, I ask my nurse or my mid-level provider, is he alone? Because I know I’m in trouble when he’s alone, because I’m only gonna get half the story.

Jeff Folloder:     

It’s true.  So I’m gonna ask each of the patients here, be a little kind to your care provider, please.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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