How Caregivers Can Help

Guide your patient to the same sources of information you would like to be given under the same circumstances. Imagine hearing that you have a pituitary tumor. What would you want to know? Remember that although you may have made the diagnosis and given information hundreds of times, it's the first time the patient has heard it.

Some specific actions the doctor and support staff can take:

• Remember that it's really difficult to follow what's being said when your brain is whirling, and you are possibly in a state of shock. Give written information where possible.

• Hand out leaflets along with the diagnosis.

• Point patients in the direction of support organizations, reliable websites, etc.

• Encourage patient questions, and perhaps have a Questions-and-Answers sheet to give.

• Be aware of the possible lay interpretation of the words used:

o "tumor' is associated with malignancies

0 "base of brain" is anatomically correct but ...

"I still had little idea of the condition and its implications. I'd been told that the pituitary was situated at the base of my brain. I probably thought I had some form of brain tumor. My colleagues and some friends certainly did and were wonderfully supportive. I now know that the terminology is anatomically correct, but it was confusing at this crucial time."

• Explain what you are doing during the diagnosis.

"I went to see the specialist armed with information about my diabetes so

1 was completely astonished when he started to ask me whether I'd noticed any increase in the size of my hands and feet. What was the size of my hands to do with diabetes? He then waved his hands around asking if I could see his fingers moving. I really wondered whether I was in the right consulting room. Seeing my confusion, he explained that he suspected a condition called acromegaly, associated with an excess of human growth hormone caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland, and would arrange some tests to confirm this."

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