One of the most important skills in medicine is communication. It lies at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship, and is particularly important when one has been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening condition. Words are powerful and too often can be interpreted in ways not intended. In our session at the 2013 ASCO Annual Meeting, we discuss the communication of cancer and ways we might want to consider discussions regarding treatment options and prognosis. We recognize that all patients are different and that approaches should be individualized, to reflect each person's needs (what they want to know) while respecting their limits (how much they want to know). We discuss the concept of shared decision making, and how it can be used when there is uncertainty in what treatments may (or may not) accomplish. Finally, we discuss the skills that constitute a toolkit for communication, which we hope can be tailored to meet the variable needs of those we are caring for and by doing so, can be of help to clinicians in their own practices. In the era of personalized medicine, treatments may become more complex, and more options may be available. We hope to encourage providers to welcome patients as active participants in their care by sharing information, requesting their input, and by engaging them in important processes such as advance care planning-to ensure their needs and wishes are respected in the present and for whatever may come in the future.


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