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Doctors Seek to Improve End-of-life Care for Cancer Patients

Recent studies have indicated that barely a third of patients report having substantive conversations with their oncologists about end-of-life care, a statistic some physicians are looking to change. Health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser reports.

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  • JUDY FREEDMAN, Cancer Patient:

    Let's get some strawberries at the market.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Six years ago, psychotherapist Judy Freedman thought her days for a family afternoon stroll in New York City were numbered. That's when she found out she had lung cancer.

  • JUDY FREEDMAN:

    I was told I had a 6- to 12-month prognosis. And, I mean, I was absolutely shocked.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    But new drugs and experimental therapies not only made it possible for the 59-year-old Freedman to survive; today, she's living with cancer.

  • JUDY FREEDMAN:

    I was going to take these to the store.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Since her diagnosis, Freedman has savored every moment with her only child, Sarah. She's renewed her interest in photography. And with husband George, she's taken three trips to Europe.

    But now the cancer has spread to her spine and brain. When she got the bad news, she wanted to talk to her oncologist about the care she would receive at the end of her life, but that conversation never took place. Freedman asked the NewsHour not to identify her doctor.

  • JUDY FREEDMAN:

    I haven't had a real end-of-life discussion, and I'm a big discusser. And I love my oncologist, and he's been wonderful. He has many very unique qualities that I love, but talking about end of life and being amenable to it is not one of them.

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