Should Physicians Share Their Own Diagnosis With Patients?

March 27, 2019

In a recent essay published in Annals of Family Medicine, Heather Thompson Buum, MD, a primary care physician in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote about how her decision to share her breast cancer diagnosis with patients brought new energy to her practice and to her personal life.

Openness can add humanity and vulnerability to patients' concept of the physician role, she wrote, adding that she also has benefited personally from patients opening up to her. She said she can now empathize with her patients who have breast cancer and let them know she has experienced some of the same physical and emotional highs, setbacks, and drug side effects.

However, she acknowledges she still struggles with which patients to tell and how much information to share, telling Medscape Medical News she looks for cues, such as whether the person seems to be a private person or may seem to want to keep a professional distance.

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