Sometimes The Most Effective Form Of Cancer Therapy Is Just Caring
In this latest edition in our continuing series of conversations about cancer with Dr. Flockhart, he answers the question: "Where do you think American policy on cancer really needs to improve?" In his opinion, the biggest impact would come from not more technology or better science, but people who could help patients navigate their treatment. Here are his words:
The most effective form of therapy is just caring and being on top of the matter. But the implementation of that doesn't happen in well in cancer in general.
To contrast it with diabetes: there are diabetes management programs where you get the whole prescription package together, the injections are coordinated, your monitoring is all put together. You have a single nurse or dedicated team, and the whole thing works like clockwork, in some cases.
It happens very rarely in cancer, even in very common things like breast cancer. A rare thing, like glioblastoma is just not organized in any kind of way. Speaking from personal experience, when I'm on treatment, I end up going to the pharmacy nearly every day for a different drug or a different dose, and getting a different answer, and going back and forth.
The misery that patients go through in that is the highest form of misery. It's an administrative thing. It's getting in a clinic. It's getting hold of a doctor. It's getting the pharmacist to return your call. It's getting the occupational, physical and speech therapy all on board. It takes a huge amount of time and energy for people who don't have any.
If someone with almost a systems engineering background sat down and said "Ok, this is the way it ought to happen. You ought to get all your prescriptions at once, here's a list of appointments, etc. " The misery in that for patients would go down a lot. That's a policy thing that could be very rationally fixed. And the amount of money invested in doing that is not the gazillions of dollars you talk about when you're developing new drugs.
Explore the rest of the series of interviews with Dr. Flockhart:
Part 1: After Cancer Diagnosis, One Doctor Takes On Two Roles: Expert And Patient
Part 2: Forgetting How to Text, Relearning How to Write: A Doctor Works Through His Own Cancer
Part 3: "You Learn the Tricks": Cancer Patient and Doctor on the Rehab Process
Part 4: So Many Unknowns: A Doctor's Frustration with Cancer Is Not What You'd Expect
Part 5: In the Midst of His Own Cancer Treatment, A Doctor Scans Family DNA For A Link