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'How long have I got, doc?' Why many cancer patients don't have answers

In the past four years, Bruce Mead-e has undergone two major surgeries, multiple rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to treat his lung cancer.

Yet in all that time, doctors never told him or his husband whether the cancer was curable — or likely to take Mead-e’s life.

“We haven’t asked about cure or how much time I have,” said Mead-e, 63, of Georgetown, Del., in a May interview. “We haven’t asked, and he hasn’t offered. I guess we have our heads in the sand.”

At a time when expensive new cancer treatments are proliferating rapidly, patients such as Mead-e have more therapy choices than ever before. Yet patients like him are largely kept in the dark because their doctors either can’t or won’t communicate clearly. Many patients compound the problem by avoiding news they don’t want to hear.

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