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BEIRUT, LEBANON - OCTOBER 07: Dr Fadi Nasr, an oncologist by profession, is on his way to visit several cancer patients at the Hospital Hotel Dieu de France on October 7, 2022 in Beirut, Lebanon. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are finding treatment more uncertain as Lebanon's economic and social crisis deepens. (Photo by Adri Salido/Getty Images)

Patients are dangerously misunderstanding doctors according to a new report from University of Minnesota researchers.

The research shows that not only do patients misinterpret what doctors tell them, they think the common medical phrases mean the exact opposite.

The researchers said that while medical language may facilitate communications between healthcare professionals, “Its use with patients can introduce confusion and may have serious consequences.

Here are some examples, according to the research.

Just about everybody in the survey knew that “negative cancer screening results” meant that they did not have cancer. But only 79% of them understood that “your tumor is progressing” was bad news.  Only 67% knew that “positive nodes” meant the cancer had spread.

80% recognized that “an unremarkable chest radiography” was good, but, only 21% understood that when a clinician says that the radiography was “impressive”
that was bad news.

The survey involved 215 adult volunteers were given a written or verbal survey.  The researchers wanted to know if certain demographic factors, like age, gender or education factored into any of this.  They discovered age didn’t help.  They also wanted to see if whether the method of doing the survey, written versus verbal mattered.  It didn’t.

The takeaway was that doctors needs to sharpen their communication skills and use language in a way patients can understand.  The survey says, perhaps when doctors are suggesting patients abstain from “oral intake” they should simply say “don’t eat or drink anything”

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