The British Neuro-Oncology Society (BNOS) Annual Meeting is primarily a clinical event with detailed presentations aimed at an audience of the UK’s top neurosurgeons and researchers. But this year we were pleased to see several presentations about shared decision making; quality of life; supportive and palliative care; and communicating with patients and relatives.
Even some of the most technical presentations, such as one about surgery for cerebral metastases by Dr Viviane Tabar from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, US, mentioned patient after-care: “Surgery for brain metastases must be an exquisite exercise in complication avoidance. It is also really important to plan discharge as well as planning surgery,” she said.
And we were pleased to see that the upcoming NICE guidelines on the treatment of brain tumours will contain guidance to clinicians that they must document discussions with patients and carers with respect to health and social care support. Professor Garth Cruikshank, from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, was as strident as ever in highlighting this - “There should be a record of psychological, cognitive, physical, spiritual and emotional issues,” he told the auditorium packed full of clinicians. “You must now all do this.”
If anyone in the audience felt chastised by that remark, they were about to get a bigger shock from Holly Matthews, actress, vlogger, entrepreneur and recent widow. Holly lost her husband to a brain tumour and recalls with great clarity how coldly his consultant delivered his diagnosis. She passionately stressed the importance of good communication and gave the audience some excellent advice:
Warm up - “Practice what you are going to say and prepare the location.”
Warning - “We got no warning that bad news was coming.”
Warmth - “We want to know that you get this on a human level.”
What’s next - “Give the patient some information about what the next steps are going to be.”
She finished by quoting “People will forget what you said; they will forget what you did; but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
For more about what we saw at BNOS, take a look at our Twitter Moment