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Managing the System

Posted 4/1/2014

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  Health care in general is intimidating and confusing. When cancer, especially a new cancer diagnosis with all the associated intense feelings, is added to the mix, it can easily become very tough for even sophisticated healthcare consumers to feel confident about strategies and choices. A recent Institute of Medicine report referred to US cancer care as "a system in crisis."

  For most of us, for any individual patient, the issues are associated with quality and access of care. How hard or easy (hardly ever is it easy) to reach our doctor with a question and have a rapid answer? How long do we have to wait for a test and then for results? What is the "scene" in the Infusion Area and how comfortable can we be there? Does a person answer the phone when we call or are we confronted with one of those mechanical "push 1 for..." systems?

  Ideally, when we are first making decisions about a care team, these questions are considered. More often, however, we are scared and overwhelmed and following recommendations about referrals and just want to get started with treatment. There are sure to be some bumps along the way, and there are strategies to reduce them and to try to work with, rather than against, the realities. This is an excellent article from Heather Millar on WebMD that is well worth reading:

How to Navigate the Challenges in the Cancer Care System
By Heather Millar

Cancer treatment is not always perfect. Although that is probably the last thing that a cancer patient wants to hear, it’s an unfortunate reality.

The good news is that the flaws in the system are being acknowledged and discussed. Last fall, I wrote about an Institute on

Medicine report that called cancer treatment in the United States a “system in crisis” and recommended improvements. Experts continue to

debate what to do. Just this month, the National Coalition on Cancer Survivorship sponsored another meeting to discuss next steps.

Some of the issues discussed have to do with how we pay for cancer care. Those issues might not be such a shock to cancer patients or to

anyone else – we know that the financial burden of cancer is a problem. But there are other issues with cancer treatment that are perhaps less

obvious and could have a direct effect on the quality of a patient’s treatment.

Here are three of the big challenges cancer patients and their oncologists face, and my suggestions for how we patients might deal with them:




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