Cancer is a Human Drama

An oncologist talks about the existential crisis of cancer

“For all our progress, we still die, and most of us have an awkward relationship with that reality.”

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In an editorial recently published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, Timothy Gilligan, MD, medical oncologist and co-Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication, argues that oncology care is more than the discoveries and treatments that enable longer and better living for patients with cancer. “Cancer is a human drama,” he says, “an existential crisis for patients, their loved ones, and the healthcare team who cares for them and for one another.” Exciting science does not enable oncologists to understand and play an appropriate role in that drama, he argues, and end-of-life communications training is absolutely essential to oncology practice.

Read Dr. Gilligan’s story of his family’s cancer drama, his analysis of communication training for physicians, and his goals for patients at the end of their care journeys here.

Photo Credit: ©Russell Lee