I recently read a post by oncologist Dr. Stephanie Graff on the experience of blame, from self and others, that people with cancer are subjected to:

The talk about risk factors and early detection makes us think we can achieve perfection, and that cancer is somehow a personal fault … let us stop making accusations and blaming persons diagnosed with cancer. They are blameless.
Her post, "Read more...

That’s the question sticking in my mind after reading a recent report about a local radiology practice opening a large mammography center in an upscale shopping mall in Long Island, New York. Let’s face it: Medical care is changing. And with changes come new ideas. Some will work, some won’t. The thought of getting a mammogram while on a shopping trip may just be what the doctor ordered ...

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Jolean Olson's always spent a lot of time in the sun, but she was shocked to see a large, suspicious-looking zit pop up on her left cheek. Her medical journey led her to a pathologist who performed a biopsy and rendered a diagnosis that helped Jolean make the best treatment decisions for herself and her family. Today, she's grateful for the definitive answers that put her on the ...

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asco-logoI remember, when I was a kid, that my grandmother would spend time at our breakfast table reading the newspaper. Not cover to cover, mind you -- she seemed to always focus her attention on the obituaries. Sometimes she would look up and tell anyone sitting around her about the death of someone near her age ...

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As an oncologist, I spend my days with women and men diagnosed with cancer. My patients, particularly my advanced-stage or Stage 4 (metastatic) patients, often ask what they did wrong. How did they end up with metastatic cancer? They share with me the subtle accusations made by friends, family and acquaintances that somehow they brought this on themselves. “If only Susan had done her screening mammograms faithfully, she never would ...

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My patient was sitting in a wheelchair. He was in his mid-forties, and before the cancer, had held a physically demanding job that he loved.  Now, the cancer in his spine had ended not only his ability to work, but any ability to use his legs. His wife was devoted to him in a way that seemed as natural and understated and unobtrusive as breathing. In order for me to examine him, she ...

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asco-logoThe couples I see for counseling are not always perfect, not that any couples ever are. But when cancer enters the relationship, for some couples, things get ugly and get ugly fast. I believe that we like to think that cancer makes people “better”; that people rise to the challenge and become the best they can be. I think that we ...

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"I like good strong words that mean something." - Louisa May Alcott My resident and I are removing a large, recurrent cancer from the neck. Dense scar tissue is everywhere from prior surgery and radiation therapy. The going is slow. Each move is arduous, and bleeding obscures the view of the anatomy. “Watch out,” I tell her. “The jugular vein is nearby, probably buried in that scar.” “Yeah,” she responds. “Look at this nerve! ...

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He could not stand Legs weak from the wasting effects of a cruel disease Stripping him of his manhood Denying him his future He could not eat His mouth cracked and dry Saliva having made an untimely exit from his personhood Unable to return again He could no longer dream He would say As I stared at him Longing to do more than hope that his pain patch Would lessen the pain of not just dying but of knowing one is dying. When ...

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I had an upsetting encounter the other day with a 22-year-old woman, who mentioned (secondary to the purpose of the visit) that she was pretty sure she had breast cancer. Why did she think that? She’d found a lump in her breast. (Somewhat unusually for the specific setting, she let me do a breast exam. All I felt was a small area of lumpy breast tissue, possibly a fibroadenoma at worst. Of course, ...

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