Reviews Personal view

The relief of communication

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 17 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:403
  1. William G Pickering, medical practitioner (
  1. Newcastle upon Tyne

    Even in the best of medical hands communication can be incomplete. Some time ago an acquaintance, knowing I was medical, told me that she had discovered a problem in her breast and had made an appointment to see the general practitioner. She added that she had been aware of it for some months, and asked if I thought she had been silly to wait, to which I replied evasively that I was pleased she was now seeing someone about it. This was the first of many questions she had for me.

    Her “very nice” GP, of whom she had apparently asked several questions, which had been sympathetically answered, saw and referred her promptly. Within three weeks she had seen a surgeon and reported that he too was “very nice, and I liked him.” She unhesitatingly used the word cancer, although she did not say whether or not the doctors had used it; nor did I ask. “I think they …

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