“The tumor is malignant, you have cancer.” A sentence that changes life. Almost every minute for a person in Germany, annually for around half a million (1). Even though medical advances have been great in recent years and a long and good life is increasingly becoming a reality in the case of many tumor diseases, the diagnosis of cancer is still fearful and threatening. And that often leaves many of those affected, but also their personal environment speechless. Experts agree that in life crises such as cancer, open communication can be very important, helpful and relieving.
“Respect and authenticity are the key to successful communication”
Yet, we often find it difficult to talk about cancer, and there are taboos and uncertainties about how to conduct the conversation. Why is that? What prevents us from speaking openly about our feelings and fears? The answer is given by Dr. medical Adak Pirmorady Sehouli, specialist in psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy and head of the psychosomatic outpatient clinic on the Benjamin Franklin campus of the Charité in Berlin, in a video interview: “The disease confronts us with the most elementary issues in life, which we can otherwise relatively well omit in everyday life ; this is completely normal and part of the human defense system. With the diagnosis of cancer, we have to face these issues, which is difficult; That’s why communication with cancer is so difficult for us.”
And once you’ve managed to speak: How much openness is “right” without hurting the other person? According to Pirmorady Sehouli, this fear is unfounded: “If I talk openly, respectfully and honestly about my feelings, then usually nobody is angry with me, and my conversation partner understands what I feel and want to express.”
According to the expert, it is also important that there is no one right way to talk about cancer. This can happen in as many different ways as those affected themselves are different. “From absolute and lasting openness to a one-time conversation to not giving the illness any space at all: everything is possible, and everything is allowed, even ’not wanting to talk about it’,” says Pirmorady Sehouli.
Initiative shows ways out of speechlessness
The interview is part of the “#togetheragainstcancer: Let’s speak openly and break the silence” initiative launched by Bristol Myers Squibb Germany. With a wide range of offers, including communication workshops for cancer patients with Pirmorady Sehouli at this year’s YES!CON, Germany’s largest cancer convention for those affected, experts and influencers on October 15th and 16th, 2022 in Munich, the company, which is one of the pioneers in cancer research, would like to show ways out of the possible uncertainty and speechlessness when dealing with the diagnosis of cancer. Eszter Viragh, Head of Corporate Affairs at Bristol Myers Squibb Germany: “The aim of our initiative is to contribute to breaking the taboo on the topic of cancer and to promoting a trusting exchange. So that communication between all those involved is (again) possible.”
Those affected decide for themselves whether, how and what they want to talk about
The heart of the initiative is the website gegen-krebs.de. Those affected will find suggestions here on how to find the right words when talking about the illness or how they can prepare well for discussions with their doctor. Another chapter deals with scientific findings on the importance of a good doctor-patient relationship in the sense of the “shared decision making” favored today. The offer of the initiative is rounded off by questions from different areas of life, which stimulate thought and want to give impulses for communication with relatives, friends and also the doctor. All of this follows the clear credo: Patients decide for themselves whether and if so, how and what they want to talk about.
For Bristol Myers Squibb, Viragh emphasizes that patients are at the center of everything we do. “Our mission is to research, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients overcome serious diseases such as cancer. With the #togetheragainstcancer initiative, the company would like to make a further contribution to supporting and empowering patients.”
Activities of the initiative #together against cancer
As part of the initiative “#together against cancer: Let’s speak openly and break the silence”, Bristol Myers Squibb will be providing information on the website gemeinsam-gegen-krebs.de be represented at this year’s YES!CON, Germany’s largest cancer convention for those affected, experts and influencers, on October 15th and 16th, 2022 in Munich with a trade fair stand and communication workshops. At the German Cancer Congress (DKK) in Berlin from November 13 to 16, 2022, the company will also provide extensive information on various areas related to cancer and the dialogue about cancer with doctors and representatives at its stand medical professionals continue. An advertising campaign in Munich and for the DKK in Berlin as well as in selected print media flank the activities of the initiative.
Bristol Myers Squibb: For a better future for people living with cancer
At Bristol Myers Squibb we share a vision: “Transforming patients’ lives through science”. Our cancer research pursues the goal of developing therapy options that enable patients to lead better, healthier lives and, ultimately, the prospect of a cure. Building on our experience and previous advances in treating different types of tumors that have helped transform survival rates for many patients, Bristol Myers Squibb scientists continue to explore innovative approaches in the field of personalized medicine. Innovative digital platforms and databases form the core of our work and should enable us to transfer data into meaningful insights. We use our comprehensive scientific expertise, state-of-the-art technologies and research platforms to understand cancer — from different perspectives — better and better. Because cancer can have a significant impact on many areas of a patient’s life. As such, Bristol Myers Squibb is committed to taking targeted action to address all aspects of patient care, from diagnosis to recovery. As a pioneer in cancer research, we are working to make a better future possible for all people affected by this type of disease.
About Bristol Myers Squibb
Bristol Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company devoted to the discovery, development and delivery of innovative medicines that help patients overcome serious illnesses. Further information at bms.com/de, Twitter, LinkedIn andYouTube.
- Center for Cancer Registry Data https://ots.de/b0Qbb5 last accessed 10.10.22
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