In his State of the Union address in 2016, President Obama pledged a new national effort to find a cure for cancer. This is the cancer "moonshot." Last year, he announced the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative -- a bold new research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease. These two strategies together hold the promise of curing cancer or, at least, transforming it ...

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Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II: "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title." I saw a consult the other day, an older gentleman with a new cancer requiring complex evaluation and extended care. Scary, hard stuff, but with the possibility of ...

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Three years ago I spent the entire month of September by my daughter's side in her hospital room. From Ana's window, we watched summer fade into fall as we waited, day after day, for her to be discharged, which finally happened in early October. During her forty days in the hospital, Ana was diagnosed with an obscure, slow-growing cancer called inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor. The tumor, roughly the size of a cantaloupe, ...

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It was after shoveling winter snow that Brett began to cough. It was a dry cough, a morning cough, a “smoker’s cough.” It persisted, grew deeper. Several weeks later, there was a particularly harsh cough and in the sink was a crimson blob. Frightened, he called his doctor. For 71 years old, Brett looked healthy. His lung exam was clear and the cough was gone. A case of bronchitis?   The chest ...

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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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