Compassion in oncology

I am an oncology doctor working in Argentina. My work brings me into contact with people during some of the most painful experiences it’s possible to imagine – a cancer diagnosis. 

The emotional fallout is huge and most people will find themselves totally ill-prepared to cope with it – whether you are a patient, carer, or even, sometimes, a doctor. Every single link in this chain needs help to manage the stress, worry, and trauma that such a diagnosis can involve.

Because when that help is in place, the outcomes are more positive. Compassion-based interventions for patients receiving cancer treatment are known to reduce fatigue, depression, and anxiety. And when it comes to doctors, cultivating compassion can make us better carers for our patients: outcomes for patients are better when they have been treated by someone they identify as compassionate.

The issue is that often these kinds of interventions target just one of the three groups involved – patient, carer, or doctor – when every party needs to be supported to create a strong unit. That is why, as a Compassion Connector, I intend to introduce an 8-week compassion-training course for each of these three essential components in a patient’s treatment. My hope is that 800 haematologists and their patients will take part and that through this effort we can relieve some of the pain of cancer diagnosis and treatment and, through that, improve outcomes. 

Pablo Mountford, oncology doctor in Argentina

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