Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sharing the Medical Tribal Knowledge

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;

I recently provided a continuing education session for the cancer practitioners of a large hospital program, as part of their Cancer Care Spring Session.  Toward the end of the session, a discussion started with an oncologist regarding a cancer patient that was not actively participating in their treatment process and the reason could be they may be going through depression. I asked the oncologist the question: If you only spend 7 to 10 minutes with a cancer patient, how would you know if the patient is going through depression? The answer was: He wouldn’t know. Unfortunately, the cancer patient loses out because it is not recognized they are going through depression which should be treated. I challenged the oncologist about how they would suspect depression, and he explained, from experience. I called it Medical Tribal Knowledge

The knowledge gained through years of treating cancer patients, is well known among the practitioners but is seldom deliberately shared with cancer patients. Additional examples of medical tribal knowledge include: if 10 percent of the cancer patients weight is lost during treatment, the treatment success will diminish; chemo brain as a result of extensive or aggressive treatment; lack of increased nutrition and an exercise regiment to improve treatment success; and many more tribal knowledge facts I continue to learn about.
The abundance of medical tribal knowledge facts should be communicated and known by the cancer patient but because of numerous reasons, are not shared with cancer patients. The treatment process, regulation and insurance reimbursement for services may all be contributing factors. Undoubtedly, there is a shortage of man power in the oncology profession.  Oncologists get paid to provide treatment, not to provide counseling. Yet, cancer patients expect a better quality of life and quality of cancer care and treatment. There is a huge chasm between treatment vs cancer care and this chasm can be seen among the older and younger generations of oncologist. The chasm is growing as regulations dictate what activities the medical profession will be paid to provide.

The cancer patient can’t wait for the chasm to be filled. Cancer is a relentless 24/7 enemy that doesn’t rest, and the cancer patient should make certain their oncologist is the leader of the cancer treatment team and process. In addition, the cancer patient needs to be proactive in their treatment process and access the medical tribal knowledge from their oncologist and treatment team. There is an abundance of medical tribal knowledge facts cancer patients should be informed about. The only way to glean this knowledge is for the cancer patient to be proactive in their treatment process, with their oncologist and cancer treatment team. In addition, every cancer patient should be eagerly willing to share with other cancer patients the tribal knowledge facts they have gained. 

The battle with cancer may be the worst battle of your life and for your life, for most people. Every medical tribal knowledge piece of information that can be gained by the cancer patient may just be the pearl of wisdom that makes the difference in their treatment success.

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