No one wants to hear those three scary words: you have cancer. Unfortunately, it is estimated there will be over 1.7 million new cancer cases that will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone. Once given the diagnosis, how can patients find hope? Surgical oncologist and author of the book “In My Hands: Compelling Stories from a Surgeon and His Patients Fighting Cancer,” Dr. Steven Curley shares how he works with his cancer patients.
Dr. Curley says he shares stories of other patients who had faced similar situations to give newly diagnosed patients hope as well as a sense of connection. In his book, each chapter is built around a virtue that he has seen expressed or learned from his patients.
“You’re not a statistic, you’re an individual,” Dr. Curley will tell patients who come in after having read statistics on the internet about their cancers. Dr. Curley gives earnest and realistic data for his patients and uses past stories to provide hope.
Secondly, he says many who are diagnosed feel like when their cancer has progressed and they are likely going to succumb to it, they will have a fear of being abandoned by the medical system. Dr. Curley makes it clear that he will be there for his patients, “I may not be able to remove the tumor, but I’ll be here. I’m not going to abandon you, if you have symptoms, problems, I’ll see you, I’ll help take care of them, we’ll help make that transition.”
The Doctors have a viewer, Alicia, with a question for Dr. Curley. Alicia has stage 4 colon cancer which she has been battling since 2012. She says she has been through chemo, both oral and IV, and was recently told she should find clinical trials. She’s scared and would like Dr. Curley’s advice.
Dr. Curley thinks clinical trials are a good idea in Alicia’s situation. He says since she has been treated for years now with chemotherapy, cancer cells may become resistant to those drugs. He thinks clinical trials are important because they allow the study of new drugs that have been designed and developed for a specific type of cancer. There is already good scientific evidence that they may work based on studies in cells or animals.
Secondly, clinical trials allow us to see if a particular drug work in humans, if it’s effective, and what if any, are the side effects. He advises her to research online the molecular studies of her cancer to find drugs that have a reasonable chance of prolonging her life and producing a good response.