The Science of Healing

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Studies done by Kaiser Permanente show that cancer patients with strong social support systems have better outcomes, but people do not always know what to say to someone who has been diagnosed.

”Cancer patients often feel confused, alone and scared. And they have special communication needs when they’re feeling so isolated,” said Dr. Katie Deming, radiation oncologist with Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

Battle language and war metaphors are only helpful for a minority of people. Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research performed a study examining the language used to talk about cancer. The study found that battle language in terms like ‘survivor’ can have detrimental emotional, physiological, and mental implications on a patient’s ability to heal.

”It’s fine to acknowledge that you’re not sure what to say and I always recommend simply saying, ‘I’m here for you,’ or ‘I’m thinking about you,’” said Dr. Deming. “Here are some ways that you can talk to someone with cancer. Start by saying, I’m here for you. Ask how you can best support them. Think about using calming language and consider avoiding fighting words.”

Research shows that cancer patients diagnosed and treated at Kaiser Permanente has 15% lower mortality rates for many common types of cancer compared to other health plans.

Doctors at Kaiser Permanente treat 500,000 cancer patients each year with a fully integrated approach to cancer care.

”Cancer can be a long journey, so it’s vital to create a sense of peace to facilitate healing. Ask yourself what you want them to feel. Calm peace comes expert. And think about if your communication is achieving this goal,” said Dr. Deming.

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