What do cancer patients need from Oncologists

Dr__Patient1_bedisde_-_landscapeKEY TAKEAWAY: There are more cancer drugs in development than any other therapeutic area, but cancer patients, and caregivers, needs are largely going unmet when it comes to the physician-patient relationship. Cancer patients want a relationship that focuses on open communication and helps them understand the therapies they are receiving.

I am leading a project to develop an unbranded website targeted at cancer patients and caregivers.  In the first phase we have been asking cancer patients and caregivers about their needs and wants and have learned the following:

1ne: Cancer patients usually have to spend a lot of time online that encompasses visits to a lot of websites to get information they want and need.

2wo: Most feel that Oncologists aren’t “patient friendly”.  They want time to clearly understand their disease, and treatment options and what to expect from the drugs they receive.

3hree: Patients tend to think in terms of “quality of life” while doctors tend to talk about data.


4our: Even insured patients say that “cost is an issue” and are usually taken back by the cost of new cancer drugs.

5ive: Cancer patients feel that they have nobody “to talk with” when it comes to information they find online.  They therefore seek support from patient support groups.

6ix: Patients feel the media does a poor job in covering new cancer therapies focusing too much on “headlines” vs. substance.

7even: The single most important criteria for most patients is “quality of life” while undergoing treatment.  Drugs that have a lot of side effects are often weighed against “how they will make me feel”.

8ight: The information they get online is often difficult to read and understand.  They want to be able to discuss what they found with their doctor, but often they are too intimated to bring it up.

9ine: Nurses working in Oncologist offices are consistently talked about in a positive light.  Some patients would rather talk with nurses than doctors when visiting their oncologist.


There is definitely a changing of attitudes when it comes to cancer patients.  Patients want to have a relationship based that respects their opinions and needs and don’t want to be talked “down to”.  There are numerous opportunities for cancer patients to connect with each other online and off to both help other patients and learn about how to best manage their disease.

2 thoughts on “What do cancer patients need from Oncologists

  1. Couldn’t agree more with this article. We observe this 100% of the time across all our cancer assets that listen to the patients and caregivers. I actually think caregivers are even more overlooked.

  2. Great post – it succinctly captures what I’ve seen via http://www.openmetronome.org – that QOL, coordination of care/providers/payer/caregivers, dialogue over data, and engagement are far more important than we have been willing to accept!

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