A perfect thank you note to an oncologist I got a letter the other day from a local urologist requesting clearance for a patient of mine to have surgery.  The doctor wanted to know whether there were any contraindications, from the standpoint of the patient’s cancer, such as bleeding, infection or poor wound healing, which would preclude local anesthesia, bilateral incisions, sharp separation, ligation, and electrocauterization of the vasa ...

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Carrie is a 72-year-old retired real estate agent with a high school education. She raised three kids, but they do not talk to her anymore.  Since her husband died, Carrie has lived alone.  A melanoma was removed from her right shoulder 2 years ago.  In my office, we stare at the CT scan display of a mass in her right lung. “What does that mean?” “Well, we wouldn’t know for sure until ...

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Cancer screening in those with metastatic disease“Your cancer has come back.” These are words no one treated for cancer wants to hear, yet they are words I have said far too often in my own career. In this case, I had said this to a patient I had cared for ever since her initial diagnosis. At that time, she had stage III breast cancer. After her surgery, ...

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I've been a practicing oncologist for all of seven months, and so was surprised when my chief asked that I take part in our quality review panel. The quality review panel is an internal group that is tasked with the responsibility of looking into allegations that a patient's care was not in keeping with best practice or what is generally considered the standard of care. Cases (often in the form ...

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In 2010, I lost my mother to cancer.  She was a fighter and had survived well past her prognosis, but her hospital costs outlived her. Let me go back to late 2004. That was the year the doctors suspected she had cancer. My mother, who was not a smoker, was officially diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer early on in 2005. When the biopsy confirmed that the small lesion in the ...

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A prostate cancer breakthrough: The good and not so good newsThe annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology is a place where many commercial interests jostle for attention to make their latest promising therapy the star of the show. But a standard widely available generic drug stole the show by producing incredible results in improving survival for men with advanced prostate cancer. And that has some of us ...

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When you tell people that your dad died of lung cancer, often the the follow up question is, "Did he smoke?" In my case, the answer is, sort of. I have fuzzy memories of my dad in our basement, smoking his pipe in his black leather chair and watching the original Doctor Who (I’m still processing the cultural implications of that last detail).  Rumor has it he smoked cigars in the ’60s, ...

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Dr. Robert's office felt right to me, with a musical birdsong soundtrack, soft lighting and fresh green tea, and I had my best friend in tow: piece of cake. In this serene atmosphere, I was sure that I'd find out what to do next to finish treating my endometrial cancer. "It's probably gone now, since my hysterectomy two weeks back," I thought. "But let's play it safe; he's the gynecological-cancer guru." Like ...

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It was 1:35 p.m. when we realized that Tom was not just late for his chemotherapy treatment; he probably would not show up at all.  A call from one of our staff confirmed, he had “troubles getting a ride” and wanted to move the vital therapy to another day.  This was the third time in a month he had missed an appointment, thus wasting a treatment slot, nursing time and ...

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Criticizing The Fault in Our Stars does childhood cancer a disservice A pediatric oncologist seems to suggest we shouldn’t be getting too upset about childhood cancer because kids and teens dying or going blind “are things that we don’t typically encounter.” “I think the important thing to realize is that cancer in children is highly treatable and ultimately curable,” Dr. Charles Hemenway of Loyola University said in HemOnc Today, in response to the movie ...

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