It will be six months since my mother passed away. I kept my mother’s illness a secret. Not because I was ashamed and embarrassed but I did not want to advertise to the entire world of what she was going through out of respect to her and my family. So you sit there, put on a front like everything is cool and continue on your daily routine, until one day everything ...

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Despite the years, I have not talked about this case.   It is not a privacy/ HIPAA problem; rather, I did not want to upset the patient and family. I am not certain that was the right decision; at the time, it seemed best. Still, the patient died, the family moved on, and I carry a guilty memory. It was after deteriorating months of corrosive cancer that we met. Multiple systems were ...

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asco-logo I like to consider myself an “evolved” clinician -- one who believes in the patient’s voice, personally invested in shared decision-making, always ready to support my patient’s decisions, as long as I know it’s informed by the best data I have available, even when it is not the course I would want them to make. Most of ...

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asco-logo I run a dilator program for women with rectal or anal cancer where I educate patients about the need for and correct use of vaginal dilators to mitigate the effects of radiation on the vaginal wall. Many women don’t understand the need for dilators after radiation for this cancer, so I always start with a description of the anatomy and ...

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It was that time of the year at the cancer center -- with treats all around, chocolates, cookies and gingerbread houses, gifted from the patients to their doctors. Yes, it was the excess sugar holiday season. Most of these patients were follow-ups --  the already established patients of the cancer center, expressing their gratitude in taking care of them in the tough times earlier in the year. Among all the ...

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Curiosity and apprehension. I experience this tension as a young man ushers me through large daunting doors with “Authorized Personnel Only” posted in bold red letters. Inside, a massive machine dominates the room, and yet my focus turns to the patient lying on the table, face covered in a white mask holding his head still while the technician targets the malignant brain tumor. “All right in there?” the specialist asks, and ...

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I was confused. Perhaps, I needed another cup of coffee. The chart did not make sense. Ellen, who I was about to see because she was transferring her care, was receiving medication for cancer that was a simple pill; inexpensive, with few side effects. What confused me is that it was obvious the therapy would not work. Baffled, I called the oncologist who had been treating Ellen for two years. A ...

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I’m writing to you from the future -- approximately ten years from where you are now. You’re a few months into your medical oncology residency, just beginning to assimilate to the flow of your daily responsibilities as a doctor committed to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. You hate living in upstate New York, and are dreading the upcoming winter and the associated endless piles of snow and sub-zero temperature nights ...

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I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Not only did the ingenious Belgian solve the murder so artfully. But someone identifiable is killed, and someone identifiable is the killer. Epidemiological studies are whodunits, too. Except you don’t know who has been killed, what the murder weapon is, or who the killer is. You only know that a murder may have happened. A study found a higher incidence of breast cancer with ...

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asco-logo She had been a patient for several years, and I still remember meeting her that first time: Her breast cancer was stage IV at diagnosis, already established in her bones; she was scared; she was in pain. Surgery was taken off the table, and she was referred for medical therapy. We had discussed prognosis, the incurableness of her cancer, ...

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