One weekend about nine-and-a-half years ago, I flew from Minneapolis, where I live, to Atlanta for a publishing conference. A colleague and I were to make a presentation to the vice-president of one of our major customers. For a couple of weeks, I'd been plagued by a sore throat, but I'd written it off as allergies or a virus. When I tried to begin the presentation, though, all that came out ...

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Start with one excellent childhood experience -- a loved one who is cured. Add a generous helping of baseline optimism, a cup at least.  More is better. Mix in well a half cup of ability to suspend disbelief.  And then, maybe a pinch more. Add a teaspoon or two or even three of denial.  Pollyanna had it right. Remember to include an ounce of prevention -- Worth a pound of cure, so they say.  Suspend ...

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asco-logo As an oncologist who also specializes in sexual health, I have realized just how essential it can be. I have seen many grapple with the consequences of cancer and its treatment on their own sexual view of themselves (their sexual self-schema) and how it can impact the relationship between partners. For some, the experience draws them closer; for ...

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Doctors have several bad habits. They order piles of tests just to get a vague, unfocused view of a patient’s health. They order expensive and invasive tests to rule out the unlikely or extraordinarily rare. The worst “bad test habit” is when doctors order a test, which, no matter what the result, will not change what they are planning to do. Why do doctors over order? These same people thought a ...

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"Do you need help getting undressed?" Jon asks from the doorway of our bedroom, one hand holding his BlackBerry, the other tucked into the front pocket of his baggy jeans. His head is slightly tilted, his eyebrows arched, highlighting his forehead wrinkles. His phone vibrates, drawing his eyes from me to the incoming message. I wait. Jon reads, ponders and then looks up, half-absorbed in what he's just read, and registers that ...

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asco-logo I still remember her clearly. She was a wonderfully vibrant 68-year-old woman from Haiti. She was always impeccably dressed, loved to talk, and had an incredibly infectious laugh. Whenever I walked in to the clinic to see her, her eyes always seemed to smile as broadly as she did. “Nice to see you, Doc!” she would say. I ...

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asco-logo Young women get gynecologic cancers, and I have had my share of conversations about ovarian cancers with women in their 20s and 30s. It rarely happens, but when it does, it is devastating. I make it a point to talk with them about their present and their future; although it is something I try to do with all ...

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I would have graduated from medical school this year.  That’s right.  Just like you, I’d be getting ready to move to another city and take up residence at an academic medical center to begin my clinical training. Things don’t always work out the way we planned: like Lenny and George in Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men.  Sometimes, the best-laid plans have a way of going awry no matter how carefully we prepare them. Cancer.  I wasn’t worried. It was ...

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Sometimes in my research on physician/patient communication, I come across a doctor who is so good with her patients, I have to share their bedside manner with you. The most recent example is a (to remain unnamed) oncologist in the northeastern United States who practically gave a primer on shared decision making when caring for a patient with metastatic cancer. The patient (I’ll call her Jennifer Decker) had stage 4 breast ...

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I am a doctor daughter. I am exhausted. My emotions are bubbling close to the surface, and I fear that at any moment, someone will do or say something to me that will cause me to lose control, which I’m not allowed to do because I’m also a female physician in a leadership role, and our emotions must be held in check. I watched one of my mentors be memorialized last ...

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