Dealing with uncertainty

Uncertainty in any situation is one of the most difficult problems for the psyche to bear. It is a state in which most patients with cancer remain from the time that they discover sinister symptoms and undergo diagnostic tests until they complete treatment. Doctors are also faced with a dilemma when trying to offer reassurance to an anxious patient and be honest about an enigmatic disease which has an uncertain outcome. This can be especially problematic when discussing clinical trials where uncertainty about the efficacy of treatment is inherent and must be discussed in order to gain informed consent. Some doctors find it useful to attend specialist courses in communication to learn ways of dealing with these issues more appropriately.

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