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Jul 17, 2019

So, you've been diagnosed with cancer. What happens next? Can you turn this shocking news into something that's a part of your life but not running your life? Is it even possible for patients to still live their lives with a cancer diagnosis? In this episode, Dr. JYP consults with MCI oncologist and supportive care physician Dr. Thomas Butler about delivering and managing the emotional side of a cancer diagnosis, and how patients can still live their lives with that life-changing reality. Even an "incurable" diagnosis. Dr. Butler candidly shares his thoughts on talking with doctors, building trust, the importance of positivity and spirituality, and the interdisciplinary care processes that affect the cancer patient, family and community.

Key Takeaways

  1. Patients can still live their lives and even thrive with a cancer diagnosis.
  2. Dr. Butler focuses on looking at the positive things he can do to make his patient lives better.
  3. Unless it's going to be harmful, Dr. Butler tends to favor quality of life over strict patients treatment adherence.
  4. Talk to your doctors: patients and physicians should build a relationship based on open communication, trust, and honesty.
  5. Doctors should strive to be good listeners and strive to understand more than being understood.
  6. Speak up and ask questions: patients should feel like they are the center of attention, and there is no such thing as a bad question.
  7. Patients with a support network tend to manage their cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship better.
  8. Positivity and spirituality can be beneficial for a patient in motivating them to do well during their treatment.
  9. The goal of palliative care is to make you feel better and make your life more comfortable.
  10. Patients are NOT alone in their cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.


Dr. Thomas Butler - Website 

The Doctors Said:


Patients can still live their lives with a cancer diagnosis. - Dr. Pierce (JYP)

If you tell me that you can't cure the cancer, that doesn't mean that it's going to end your life. It means you've just got a different perspective on your life. - Dr. Thomas Butler

I think that we can focus on looking at the positive things we can do to try to make their lives better. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Communicating with honesty is essential, and patients need to be able to trust us doctors that we're going to treat them like we would a family member. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Sometimes the initial diagnosis is so shocking that you may have to revisit the conversation because you don't really know exactly what the patient heard or can recall. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Letting people express their distress is important, and I think for me the best technique is listening. I'm wanting to hear from the patient experience as opposed to what I'm dictating that their experience should be. It's better to understand than to be understood. - Dr. Thomas Butler

I like to listen to patients tell about how their treatment is because it helps me know what to tell other patients. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Make sure the patient understands that they are the center of attention. It's not what I want; it's what they want. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Give the patient the confidence that they can ask what to expect. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Palliative care has kind of a negative connotation because a lot of folks think of it as end-of-life care. But, the word palliate means to make you feel better. I tell folks that that's the goal of palliative care is to make you feel better. - Dr. Thomas Butler

When folks do have family support, they tend to do better as far as the management of their disease. - Dr. Thomas Butler

I encourage patients to realize that they're not alone, and at MCI we have people who can help take care of them. - Dr. Thomas Butler

The cancer diagnosis sometimes makes patients feel isolated, and I think knowing that others are walking through it with them can be helpful. - Dr. Thomas Butler

Having a spiritual focus on the meaning of this disease and their life can be beneficial in motivating patients to do well during their treatment. - Dr. Thomas Butler

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The Cancering Show is brought to you by USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama. MCI is a cutting-edge cancer research and treatment center built to fight cancer smarter in Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. Our researchers and clinicians focus daily on the struggle against cancer, serving a potential catchment population of more than 4.1 million people, with a singular focus of advancing cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention throughout the Gulf Coast and beyond with science, technology and hope.

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