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Strategies For Helping Patients And Families Deal With Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is an illness that affects over 211,300 women each year in the United States. (Rousseau 95) Early detection and advanced treatments are ensuring survival and long life after cancer. Although doctors can supply treatment and drugs to patients, sometimes it is the job of the medical assistant to help the patient cope with the illness, and then afterwards, cope with survivorship. (Rousseau 96) Traditionally, spouses are a source of emotional support, but they can also bring stress. It is a medical assistant's job to ensure that the patient has access to emotional support groups and if need be, they themselves can provide the emotional support without that unpreparedness and anxiety that a spouse of family member could often bring.

Because breast cancer is not a short-term illness, many patients grow a friendly and even intimate relationship with the medical assistants at her clinic. This is because most patients are seen around the same time of day, and even on the same day of the week each visit and it is likely that during each visit they will be taken care of by the same person. This is especially likely in smaller clinics. (Wahl 112)

Part of the medical assistant's job is to deal with medical histories and take patients vitals at the time of arrival, whether the visit is a routine check up, or for something more serious. Because of this patients and medical assistants have a unique relationship. They are professionals and do not candy-coat diagnosis, or beat around the bush when relaying specific illness related information. This forwardness and upfrontness builds respect with parent and medical assistant, and it is because of this special bond, that patients befriend and often confide in medical assistants. (Rousseau 100)

In addition to providing care, and serviced available for mental support, the medical assistant can provide an almost "comic relief" for the patient. Humor is a component of the human experience. It enables some patients to adapt to their disease. Most cancer patients will tell you, that being able to laugh in the face of adversity is a key factor for healing and coping. (Johnson 691) Humor is not only important for the patients, but for the medical staff as well. Humor is incorporated into patient care, and medial assistants are encouraged to laugh with their patients. (Johnson 691)

Humor appears to have effects on the spiritual aspect of healing as well. Many patients say that laugher is uplifting spiritually, and because of laughter, they experience less stress. Laughing with the patient is the medical assistant's way to lightening the load, per say, and offering a time out from the stress of breast cancer. Medical assistants do use caution in weaving humor into clinical visits, because many people do not find anything about breast cancer to be funny in the beginning of treatment, but as time goes on, they fin themselves laughing at it more and more. One woman said that she found laughter to be therapeutic, and that things of this nature are so ridiculous that she had to laugh, to avoid depression

Humor on the part of the medical assistant helps to develop a deeper relationship with the patient, and it shows sensitivity and trustworthiness. (Johnson 693) Humorous stories about experiences of other similar patients, and sharing your own experiences can provide support. Patients may be embarrassed about certain things that happen to them during treatment such as weight loss, or hair loss. Sharing stories can provide a type of support and build trusting relationships with the medical assistant.

Although the greatest obligation of the medical assistant is to the patient, they also have an obligation to the family as well. The family is often just as emotionally unprepared and scared as the patients themselves. They do not understand, typically, what is happening inside the patients body, or how she is feeling. It is the job of the medical assistant to offer support to the family members as well as the patient. Providing them with lists of local support centers as well as offering them information themselves is part of the patient care aspect of the medical assistant's job. Support centers are provided to teach family members how to respond to emotional distress. Minimal conflict in the home during the 1st year of treatment is associated with better mood levels for the patient. (Rousseau 96) Making sure that the patient is informed about her breast cancer enough to discuss it with her family is an important part of a medical assistant's job. Openness about breast cancer diagnosis is related to lower levels of emotional stress by the patient.

Aside from offering support and humor to lighten the mood, medical assistants offer a plethora of information to the patients. It is the job of the medical assistant to a wide variety of sources for information of breast cancer diagnosis, as well as diagnosis of any other illness. Independent research may be done on the part of the medical assistant to ensure he or she is well informed in all areas of

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