• Is it appropriate to be told you have cancer over the phone.

    Asked by Charlieb on Monday, September 24, 2012

    Is it appropriate to be told you have cancer over the phone.

    In response to the question about a doctor hugging their patient I have a question. Is it appropriate to be told you have cancer over the phone? My doctor said he knew I could handle the news on phone. I was ok with this but several of my friends felt I should have been told in the office. I see several people were given the news over the phone and am curious how people feel about this. Given the fact it takes several days to get lab results, should the doctor just make a follow up appointment or is a phone call ok?

    42 Answers from the Community

    42 answers
    • teddyfuzz's Avatar

      I received my cancer news over the phone. Personally, I didn't like getting the news at all - phone or otherwise. If the doctor would have had me come into the office it just would have prolonged the torture of waiting. For me, a phone call was okay.

      over 8 years ago
    • nobrand's Avatar

      I wouldn't mind getting the news by phone.. there are no copays involved!

      over 8 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      I think that's one step above a singing telegram.

      My opinion is they should always tell you in person, and be prepared to explain the situation, and anticipate questions. Most doctor offices I've visited have those great anatomical models and charts, but I have yet so see anyone actually use them.

      There are some situations where people live several hours from their cancer center. I think if you have a major cancer, it's still appropriate to discuss it in person, in private. However, they should make the visit worthwhile, with patient education and a printout that explains your condition.

      Because people are so different, it might also be okay to ask them during their first visit if they want to be notified of any results over the phone or in person. But I still think it's better to look someone in the eye, and be able to assess what else they might need in the way of care.

      over 8 years ago
    • bp440's Avatar

      My husband's doctor asked if we wanted to be called or wait until the follow up appointment (post op for the biopsy incision site). We both opted for the phone call. This allowed us time to get informed and have our questions prepared. His physician also started the process of ordering scans and consulting with the medical oncologist before the follow up. We both have medical backgrounds, which helps us understand the medical jargon. I think the physician should respect your wishes as to how you want to be notified.

      over 8 years ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar

      I was told by phone the last time, first two times was in person. I didn't mind the last time by phone. I was anxious and wanted to know as soon as possible. So I got my news right then.

      over 8 years ago
    • Ydnar2xer's Avatar

      I was told both times over the phone, coincidentally, by the same RN--even though she had "retired" a few years earlier, then went back to work part time and just happened to be working the day when my results came in!

      Both times, I appreciated hearing the news from her, because I consider her a friend and I respect her command of medical knowledge. I felt I could ask her any question I might have--and that she would spend adequate time with me to make me feel reassured. She didn't just tell me about the cancers, but told me what I could probably expect as far as treatment, as well. Although I hated the message she had to give me (especially this second time around), I thought she did an excellent job of making me feel like both cancers could be overcome and that I was going to be OK--what else could you want when receiving bad news?

      over 8 years ago
    • Modern's Avatar

      My dr called me in told me the news then left me and my mom alone a minute and then came back to talk about options I think I would have gone to pieces if I'd been told over the phone and couldn't have made clear disisions

      over 8 years ago
    • lynn1950's Avatar

      Over the phone was fine with me. I live so far away from specialists, that I really appreciate being able to communicate on-line and over the phone!

      over 8 years ago
    • Cheryl2's Avatar

      At the time of my biopsy, I asked the OB?GYN how I would be notified of the results. He said I would get a phone call, probably from his nurse. If it was cancer, he would be calling. When he identified himself on the phone, I knew it was bad. I was glad I was at home with my husband by my side listening. I think this was better than being called and told to make an appointment. That would have set off the alarm bells. I just wanted the results ASAP. It was worse waiting for the referral appointment and then for surgery (almost 2 months from the biopsy).

      over 8 years ago
    • StacyM's Avatar

      My surgeon was the one who told me. In our initial visit after my MRI, he had told me he was certain I had a stage 2 grade 2 sarcoma, but wanted to do a biopsy to confirm. I was given the official diagnosis over the phone and I was OK with it. I could have my breakdown privately that way. The fact that he was on vacation and took the time to do it instead of waiting until he got back to the office made me feel like he really cared. He described in detail what surgery would entail and answered any questions I had, so it was pretty much like an office visit.

      over 8 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      As I told the med student asking about hugs, being told you have cancer should not be a shock, so the method of communication doesn't really make any difference, IMO. Quite honestly, I don't even remember how or from whom I was given the "official" diagnosis and at the time and now almost a year later, that was the least of my concerns. Anyone newly diagnosed with cancer is about to spend a lot of time going to medical appointments. To have to wait, go to your doctor's office, possibly pay for the appointment, etc. etc. when there is no physical or medical need to make the patient wait, travel, and pay is inappropriate.

      over 8 years ago
    • Bjstanna's Avatar

      My wife was called not me. That sucked

      over 8 years ago
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      I was told twice over the phone and 2 times in person. I prefer in person, but there where mitigating circumstances that made the phone call the right decision.
      Phone call 1- Advanced Renal cell. We waited over a week for the results, and the doctor called me at 7:30 PM, just after the pathology lab called him. It was a difficult call and they needed several pathologist to confirm that a) it was kidney cells on my liver b) they matched the cells fro the tumor removed 15 years previously. I was able to call the Oncologist he recommend first thing the next morning (Fri) and set up an appointment for Monday afternoon.
      Phone call 2 - a year later - I called the doctor who preformed the biopsy directly and asked for the result. I then called my oncologist who set up an appointment for me to see my breast oncologist first thing the next morning. I then called my PCP for a referral.

      I was really glad that I got the news about the Metastasized breast cancer in person. The kidney oncologist, had taken care of arrange an appointment (including getting a referral from my PCP) for me to see the breast oncologist immediately after I saw him.

      My original Kidney cancer diagnoses was given to me during my first post nepherctomy check-up. I was in a state of shock. Until the pathology results came back, every one thought it was a benign tumor.

      over 8 years ago
    • dvdbriansr's Avatar

      Appropriate or not, this is the first time I had ever even thought about having cancer, even though almost all the males on my mothers side died of it. I was told on my very first visit by my oncologist that he believed with all his heart that I had cancer, but would not commit himself. As seems to be the majority of consensus the phone seems to be the most frequent way of giving one the devastating news. Personally, the means by way the news is revealed isn't as important as the news itself. I was notified by my oncologists assistant by phone, she was more concerned with the fact that I didn't lose it when informed. I believe I was in a state of shock, since I received the news 4 days ago, probably still am.
      What became an issue with me, was that I was given just enough information to scare the bejesus out of me and gave more questions then answers. Like how much radiation and chemo, for how long, what can i anticipate, etc, . . . which I'm hoping to get on Oct 2nd and 3rd when I meet with the radiation and chemotherapy Drs as well as my oncologist. It still has not had time to totally set in yet, as every now and then I feel the tears welling up in my eyes and just the feeling of crying uncontrollably although I know for a fact that it will not do me, my wife or anyone any good.

      over 8 years ago
    • sjjohnson1's Avatar

      I received a call and was told to bring someone with me to the doctor's office. At that point, I knew anyway. At the office, he told me what was going on and set up an appointment with a surgeon.

      over 8 years ago
    • seashelly's Avatar

      Yes....I would rather be at home when I get the news than in an office send have to drive home

      over 8 years ago
    • KatieMarie's Avatar

      I was given 3 choices phone call, visit to the office or email. With each choice I was given information on the pros and cons of each. I took the call and after the news i was asked if I wanted a follow up email of what was discussed and the actual results. Also a contact number for questions.
      From the day I scheduled my biopsy I was introduced to a NP who would be the key person to ask questions and give me the results. I've worked amongst RNs 20+ years and felt very informed and comforted.
      Once I was diagnosed I was introduced to a Cancer care coordinator RNP again, I've been keep well informed and comforted. I believe you should have a choice

      over 8 years ago
    • AnnFogleman's Avatar

      On dec 27, 1990, the phone rang at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was my late husband's doctor informing him he had prostrate cancer. I was shocked anyway to hear that diagnosis but shocked the he gave the news over the phone. I guess it was all right to do it, but I was surprised that news as serious as that was given over the phone. But I guess it was so they could get the ball rolling sooner on treatment which was started about two weeks later.

      over 8 years ago
    • michelleray's Avatar

      I was told over the phone. I was 25, and really didn't know what "Cancer" was. It was my surgeon who did my biopsy and his receptionist that told me. I went completely numb and could not understand Anything they said after that. . .Mastectomy? What? I do not understand what you're telling me. . .No people should not be told over the phone that they have Cancer and what is going to happen next. I believe it should be an office visit, and you should bring at least two people with so everything can be remembered.

      over 8 years ago
    • mysecondchance's Avatar

      I received my initial diagnosis from my primary over the phone. I had just walked in the door from having the ct scan. She asked if I was alone, which I was. She was hesitant to tell me but by then I knew it wasn't good. I just kept asking what it was until she said ovarian cancer. My first question was, how bad? I honestly don't remember her reply. Later that afternoon I got a call from the gastroenterologist who ordered the ct scan. He proceeded to tell me the options but stated since I was Stage IV there was nothing they could do. This was in March of 2010 and I figured I wouldn't last past summer. I was actually Stage IIIc.

      With my recurrence I got an email from my oncologist. I would have preferred a phone call from her since we have an established relationship.

      I guess I prefer to know as soon as possible so a phone call is okay. Like everything else in life we each have are own preferences and maybe letting the medical staff know would be helpful.

      over 8 years ago
    • Reel's Avatar

      I was told the biopsy would take several needle sticks. After one, the pathologist said, "That's good enough, I have all I need to see." I got a call the next morning to see the doctor that afternoon. What he was going to tell me was obvious. When he told me I responded with, "Well, what's next?" The doctor got very angry with me and asked, "What's the matter, aren't you going to cry or something?"
      I would have preferred a phone call!

      over 8 years ago
    • no1yuno's Avatar

      No. I think to receive information that way would be very cold and impersonal. It would make you feel more like a statistic than a human. Every person reacts to things differently and no one knows for sure how the person on the other end of the phone would handle the news.

      over 8 years ago
    • highwaygirl's Avatar

      I would rather get it on the phone. If I had been called back into the office to be told, I'd be worried sick as to why they were calling me back in.

      over 8 years ago
    • Bulldogdarc's Avatar

      I don't think so, I was told that I had the BRCCA 1 gene over the phone by a nurse and starting crying. I would have preferred to be told eye to eye.

      over 8 years ago
    • PinkRibbons' Avatar

      Hi, I personally agree with your friends, I think with devastating news such as Cancer you should be told in person, that way you could ask all the questions you have and get some answers instead of waiting for an appointment. I think it is kind of cold heartred to be told that you have cancer over the phone and I'm sorry you were told that way. The first time I got cancer, I did get a call to come in the office, the second time I was told in person and I am glad for that. So I say a big NO to phone calls!! Stay strong and Hang in there, you will Win!

      over 8 years ago
    • leslie48240's Avatar

      In my head I already knew it was cancer...and the surgeon who did the biopsy that turned into a lumpectomy had already told my husband that it did look like cancer. So...when my oncologist called and said "Where are you now? Is someone with you?" ...I knew what he was going to tell me. He did ask if I wanted to come to the office...I said no...just tell me. Funny, even tho I 'knew' and thought I was ready....my legs went out from under me...like rubber and I puked a bit later. I don't think i would have taken in any 'info session' at that time if I was in the office. We set up that appt for a few days later. I love my Doctor, btw. He can read me easily and was so easy to talk to. Helps to have confidence in the doctor. My immediate so-workers were like family and so supportive.

      almost 8 years ago
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      over 7 years ago
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      over 7 years ago
    • Paul's Avatar

      I got it over the phone as my doctor and I knew I could handle it. Sadly, his office called my wife as I was on the road and told her to make an appoint for me at a specialist. When she called, she found out it was a local oncology center. Wrong way to tell her!

      over 7 years ago
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      over 7 years ago
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    • Judyinthesouth's Avatar

      I would consider this inappropriate! I don't this everyone would have the same reaction to the news of cancer...and you would immediately have lots of questions!

      over 7 years ago
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    • Godschild's Avatar

      I called because the oncologist left a message on my machine to call him back. I did, fortunately, I was at my girlfriend's house having tea. I called my house phone and got the message so I called the cancer center and found out. I was shocked, confused and disoriented. Thank God my friend is a nurse, she looked it up and told me what it was. I had no idea what it was!

      over 6 years ago
    • Quay21's Avatar

      If your Dr previously asked you your preference & you stated over the phone, then ok. I believe test results should be given in person.

      over 6 years ago
    • janetk's Avatar

      My Oncologist told me in the hospital and after I had a bone marrow biopsy she called me with the results to verify that I had Multiple Myeloma. I have an arrangement with my Oncologist to call me with all test results whether good or bad. Communication is very important. I don't feel that an initial diagnosis of cancer should ever be given over the phone.

      over 6 years ago
    • jackiwalkr's Avatar

      I was told over the phone and went to pieces at work. She immediately called in some Ativan to pharmacy to pick up on my way home. I was glad she told me right away. She kept me on phone discussing what she was going to do next. It was still a blur. No time is right time to be told you have Cancer.

      about 6 years ago
    • Lovstoknit's Avatar

      My doctor told me over the phone as he was leaving town. I didn't mind. It was harder telling loved ones than hearing the news myself.

      over 4 years ago

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