4th February is nominated World Anti-Cancer Day and a discussion in French media is about how doctors and nurses break the news to patients. Training of medical students did not include how to communicate with patients until recent years. One woman remembers her gynaecologist's secretary phoning her at work. Another was told baldly that there was no hope. Since about 2003 there has been a new protocol though there may still be differences depending on the personality of the professionals involved.
Many readers have experienced treatment here in France or elsewhere and may have different experiences. Taglines' sub-editor was diagnosed almost exactly 12 months ago with a form of lymphoma and experienced the communication with oncologists and nursing staff at Albi hospital.
We had a rendezvous with a specialist after a battery of tests and she passed us over to the oncologist after discovery of the condition. It was explained to us what was happening and that a programme of treatment would be agreed with various specialists, including the oversight of the Toulouse Oncopole experts.
A few days later we were given details of the programme and dates scheduled for chemotherapy. The documents in the dossier included the inevitable questionnaire as to whether the protocol on communication had ben followed. At the first treatment I was visited by a dietician and psychologist and throughout found the nurses extremely friendly and attentive. The lead oncologist was very "serious" as the French would say; business-like and brisk rather than empathetic, but always willing to listen and answer questions.
There is in our area an organisation called Cancer Support France (there is a contact number in the sidebar to this page) who hold monthly coffee mornings at the Gazpacho in St Antonin. CSF's aim to provide help, advice and support to those facing treatment or their families. One of the most useful aspects is help to deal with French individuals and organisations in the language.
Do not expect hospital staff to speak English. I found that the fact that I can speak reasonable French helped the medical staff and interested them in communicating with them. But use CSF if you need any help.