Difficult Conversations Workbook

Chapter 1: Understanding Your Prognosis

Until it becomes something you must think about firsthand, the word “prognosis” can seem unfamiliar, even abstract. Many patients feel uncertain about what their prognosis actually means, even after speaking to their doctors.

Laura doesn’t even remember having been given a prognosis… But, she admits, “I didn’t really want one.” Later, she says, she “poked around enough to find one,” but discovering she didn’t like what it said, she “kind of ignored it.” Rich was told that his condition was treatable but not curable.”

Prognosis, treatable and not curable are hard concepts for doctors to explain and can be even harder for patients to understand.

Steve’s doctor told him, “It’s good and bad.” Fritz was told that if he didn’t proceed with more radical treatments he had six months, maybe a year, to live. “That was a bad day,” he said. Cathy recalls that her doctor said “it’s not curable but it’s treatable; we’ll make you comfortable, there are lots of things we can try.” Recalling this, she adds, “That was hard to hear.”

Ask yourself:
What do I remember my doctor saying about my prognosis?
I remember my doctor saying...
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