It’s not easy to drive down a major urban highway and avoid the barrage of ads from the city’s major cancer treatment center describing a new form of promise to patients and families. Here are some real life examples.

•    Introducing Cancer Surgery Without Surgery
•    Fighting Cancer and Winning
•    She Never Gave Up, So Her Cancer Quit
•    This is Cancer’s Cancer (with a picture of a machine that delivers radiation)
•    Cancer, You Don’t Stand a Chance Around Here

These are very clever ads. They sound comforting. I read them and for a moment my own personal concerns about someday being diagnosed with cancer seem to melt. Be assured that hard-working individuals are driving innovation through experimentation with drugs and surgeries, technology, and methods to enhance the patient experience. Those efforts are absolutely vital and the right thing to do. I hope we don’t back down or allow these to come to a halt. But there’s a something critical missing. It’s made up of communication, education, reflection, prayer, community, and other pieces that bring connectedness to the picture. It’s understanding which allows for the creation of plans. People go through cancer with without understanding what’s happened to their body, how the illness changes over time, the burdens and benefits of the available therapies, and the impact of the illness on those they love. How can we ever make good choices without these basic understandings? How can we properly plan?

This might seem too simple or perhaps overblown. So let’s look at a study from one of the most prestigious medical centers in the world in one of the most respected medical journals in published. Doctors at the Weill Cornell Medicine published a study in the Clinical Jounral of Oncology that evaluated cancer patients’ understanding of their situation. They tested 178 patients with the goal of assessing whether or not they knew very knew basic information on their medical condition. They didn’t use medical jargon or big, fancy words. What they found was staggering. Only 9 patients understood what was happening to them. Five percent! Five out of one hundred people could show the doctors that they a grasp on what’s happening with them.

While we have never ending blood tests, scans, and pathology slides to direct doctors, we don’t have nearly enough education, dialogue, and healthy back and forths on what patients want for their care today as well as in the future. Without focusing on this exchange, without emphasizing to patients that they could never make informed decisions without being armed with knowledge, our “war” with cancer will not have the desired outcome.

Education, reflection, and discussion isn’t high tech. It’s planning. While planning helps us prepare for retirement, fund our children’s education, and go on trips, it isn’t part of healthcare. That’s unacceptable because the benefits include higher quality of care, longer life, decreased family distress, and patients staying in control of their care. At Iris Plans we work with patients and families experiencing cancer to plan for their care. This is not a substitute for visits with the oncologist. It doesn’t interfere or replace the care you’re getting now. It enhances it. It empowers you. Don’t wait. The benefits of planning begin at the time of diagnosis. Contact us today through www.irisplans.com.

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