With Cancer, As With Life, Be True To Yourself

Mar 5, 2015
Karen Iseminger headshot
submitted photo

The diagnosis of cancer evokes feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness in people. It's common to feel fear, denial, disbelief, despair, distress, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability.  Within a few minutes of receiving their diagnosis, an oncology patient can easily feel overwhelmed by a diminished ability for self-determination. 

Not too many years ago, nearly half of the kids diagnosed with cancer in Guatemala wouldn't come in for treatment. There wasn't much chemotherapy to be had, and parents didn't think treatments worked. Most children with curable cancers died.

vials containing DNA
igemhq via Flickr

President Obama recently asked Congress for $215 million for an initiative to collect genetic information and combine it with health data with the goal of creating treatments tailored to individuals – or precision medicine. The proposal has bipartisan traction, and is expected to be one part of the President’s $4 trillion budget that's likely to pass in both houses. 

Pregnant With Cancer: One Woman's Journey

Feb 11, 2015

After years of debating whether to have a second child, my husband, Mark, and I decided to give it a try. Two weeks later, we found a lump. I was 35.

Cancer Patients And Doctors Struggle To Predict Survival

Feb 10, 2015

When a doctor tells a patient that she has cancer and has just a year left to live, that patient often hears very little afterward. It's as though the physician said "cancer" and then "blah, blah, blah."

Anxiety makes it difficult to remember details and the worse the prognosis, the less the patient tends to remember. Recent studies have found that cancer patients retain less than half of what their doctors tell them.

Son's Rare Cancer Leads Family On Quest For Cure

Feb 10, 2015

Treating cancer is a race against time.

Every once in a while, there's an experimental drug that's so promising it makes the race even more urgent. Patients and their families plead with pharmaceutical companies to get it before the Food and Drug Administration's approval.

The demand has been particularly high for a new class of drugs that harnesses the immune system to fight cancer.

after radiation therapy
Lauren Weghorst

Dr. David Flockhart is a pharmacogeneticist and contributor to Sound Medicine who was recently diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer. In our continuing series of conversations, Dr. Flockhart shares his experiences of treatment and recovery, and what he's learned about the disease, and about himself. In this recording, he talks with bioethicist and longtime friend Eric Meslin.* 

Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading killers around the globe. In 2012, two-thirds of all deaths worldwide were the result of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory infections. The mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was even higher in low- and middle-income countries.

What is it that's most likely to kill you? The World Health Organization says that in the 21st century, it's your lifestyle.

And it's not just a Western problem.

Update at 3:05 ET: The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday afternoon that the state can require Cassandra to continue treatment.

Her mother, Jackie Fortin, said she's disappointed by the decision. "She knows I love her and I'm going to keep fighting for her because this is her decision," Fortin said. "I know more than anyone, more than DCF, that my daughter is old enough, mature enough to make a decision. If she wasn't, I'd be making that decision."

Here's our original story, reported Thursday morning:

A drug that is used worldwide to treat malaria is now being tested as a treatment for cervical cancer. This surprising idea is the result of a new laboratory technique that could have far-reaching uses.

Our story starts with Dr. Richard Schlegel at Georgetown University Medical Center. He's best known for inventing the Gardasil vaccine to protect women from cervical cancer.