Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Uncertainty a huge source of anxiety in patients

From a December 3 Reuters Health news item by Fran Lowry

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (Reuters Health) – Uncertainty about a diagnosis causes more anxiety and can be more stressful than actually knowing that you have a serious illness, researchers reported here at the 2010 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

“Once people have the diagnosis, they gain some understanding and control, but without it, all they have is anxiety, and they do not know how to handle it,” Dr. Elvira V. Lang, from Harvard Medical School, Boston, told Reuters Health. “It is important for physicians and others who work in the health care field to realize this and find ways to alleviate this anxiety and stress. Not only will they help patients, they will also be helping their institutions to provide more cost effective care.”…

We were very surprised to see that the women having breast biopsy were significantly more anxious than the women who came for treatment for malignant cancer and those who came for fibroids,” Lang said in an interview.

Health care professionals tend not to be aware that diagnostic tests can be stressful, she added.

The researchers recognize that for a woman awaiting breast biopsy, the fear of being diagnosed with cancer and uncertainty about what the outcome will be can create higher anxiety levels than even those experienced by patients undergoing a “much riskier and invasive treatment of a known cancer.”

“People in health care and also family members may judge what is minor or major by how much risk is involved. But that is not what the patient is experiencing. That is why we want to alert them,” Lang said.

There are simple ways to diffuse this anxiety prior to procedures, she added. “People want to make patients feel better but they use language that is not helpful. For instance, they will say ‘oh, it’s not going to be that bad’, or ‘it’s just going to be a little sting’, but using such vocabulary only increases anxiety and pain.”

Training health care providers to use the right language with patients about to undergo diagnostic procedures will not only reduce their anxiety levels, it will also save the health care system money, Lang added.

“Sometimes patients are so anxious they can’t complete a test….

 

 

December 7, 2010 - Posted by | Consumer Health | , , ,

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