Good cancer care begins with good client communication. Communicating effectively with pet owners before and after a cancer diagnosis, however, can be challenging. Every owner handles a diagnosis in their own way, but there are common concerns that many clients have. Consider the following to help you prepare and review the messages you want to communicate when talking about cancer with your pet owners:
- Owners may believe a diagnosis means the end is near for their pet. Explain that a diagnosis is the beginning of a new journey and that cancer, like other diseases, is treatable.
- If owners are experiencing grief, they may need more time to process information. Provide clear information about the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options, and costs. Expect to repeat information several times. Owners need to understand the goal and likely outcome of treatment.
- Owners may question the need for diagnostics. Explain why staging and grading are critical for determining a prognosis and treatment plan.
- They may ask that treatment be delayed so that a tumour can be observed over time. It may be reasonable for an owner to choose not to treat a pet's cancer, but make sure they understand that a delay will make future treatment more difficult and will increase the likelihood of the cancer spreading. If owners choose not to pursue treatment, educate them about palliative care.
- Owners may believe their pets will have to spend their last months in the hospital. Reassure clients that treatments are administered on an outpatient basis. Using Oncura Partners Online Cancer Management System means treatment can be administered at your clinic. Travel to unfamiliar clinics is not necessary.
- They may believe their pet is too old for cancer treatment. Explain that most cancer patients are older. Statistics about outcomes are collected from populations of mostly older pets. General health is more important than age when predicting how a pet will respond.
- Owners may believe that pursuing treatment is an all-or-nothing decision. Offer them the gold standard treatment when possible. If the gold standard is not possible, educate owners about other options.
- Understand that owners are grieving. This may lead them to question you. Be open and consistent with the messages you give them. Reassure owners that you are focused on the best quality of life for their pet.