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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Is ignorance bliss, or is knowledge power? When cancer healthcare professionals become cancer patients

Avnee Lagad, Katharine Hodgkinson, Toby R O Newton-John
European Journal of Cancer Care 2019 April 24, : e13066
31016805
Cancer healthcare professionals who are diagnosed with cancer enter the patient journey with considerable illness-specific and healthcare expertise, which may influence the nature of their experience. Insights gained from having personal cancer experience may also lead to changes in professionals' subsequent clinical practice. This study explored cancer professional-patients' experiences of their own cancer diagnosis, changes in practice, and recommendations for cancer care improvements. Participants were current or former cancer healthcare professionals who had ever received a cancer diagnosis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 participants. Thematic analysis with an inductive approach was used for data analysis. Cancer professional-patients faced unique needs, benefits and disadvantages due to their professional background, which both aided and marred their personal cancer experience. Individuals reported subjective practical and emotional-related improvements in their clinical practice, although adverse emotional consequences upon returning to work were also prevalent. Care recommendations highlighted the importance of communication skills training for professionals, integrating psychological support, and providing patient-centred care. In order to provide optimal care for cancer professional-patients, providers must acknowledge their distinct challenges. Findings may help to foster improvements in cancer care practices through developing guidelines for treating cancer professional-patients, and as part of narrative-based medicine.

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