Archive for the ‘Anecdotes & Essays’ Category

Hospital Rooms for Cancer Patients: A Home Away From Home

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Hospital RoomThere is a very special place I know of. On the surface it seems austere, uninviting: a row of rooms, private but plain. These rooms have a bed and a bath, a window and a tray table, a call light and a nightstand. The occupants come and go. Some stay for just a night or two. Others stay for weeks. But they all have one thing in common: They are my patients. And this is their hospital. And these rooms are where they fight to live, and where they sometimes die. (more…)

MRSA Infection Story: Life Saving Accessability

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

fearJudy knew she could count on me, and that simple knowledge saved her life recently. Judy had been getting maintenance therapy for breast cancer, not the kind of treatments that typically weaken the immune system. So, when she went to the ER at my hospital one Saturday night when I wasn’t on call, the ER doctor took care of her himself. (more…)

Belief in the Soul: A Death and an Inspiration

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Undying Soul by Stephen Iacoboni - Book Cover Image

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou, Poet Laureate

Dying of cancer can take time. For many patients, the quality of these weeks or months or years depends on their perception of what happens just after the end. Oblivion, bliss or a dark and unknowable abyss: what they see ahead, or fail to see, affects not only their journey, but the lives of the people around them — those folks for whom a bell will also toll. (more…)

Cancer Stories: My Highest Appointment

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Fire RainbowI recently took care of a wonderful 60-year-old gentleman who had one of the worst cases of malignant melanoma any of us had ever seen.

He started with just a small tag on his skin, but shortly after it was removed it came roaring back, and rapidly spread throughout his system. (more…)

Statins and Cancer: Cancer Lowers Cholesterol

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

StatinsEvery time I see a patient, and on every visit, I review their current medication list. This process has recently been mandated by Medicare, but most doctors like myself have been doing it all along — without a mandate — because it is just good practice.

What I often find are medications given to patients for the purpose of prevention. And the most notable of these are the “statin” drugs, i.e. drugs that claim to lower cholesterol. (more…)

Doctor, I Want a Cancer Scan: Trusting Your Doctor

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

PET scanBy Dr. Stephen Iacoboni |

It seems more and more often I have patients who come in and insist on getting some special scan ordered for them. Their rationale invariably consists of either, “I have a friend whose uncle is getting lots of scans for his cancer,” or “How do we know if my cancer is really gone if we don’t get another scan…?”

Believe me, I am very sympathetic to the sentiment behind each of these concerns. But what’s most important is to address the root causes of these concerns with education and mentoring — a far better approach than needlessly spending thousands of healthcare dollars of no medical value. (more…)

A Hike in Fall: The Territorial Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Red-bellied Woodpecker, m.My favorite time to hike in the woods is in the fall. I don’t care much for beating the summer heat by hitting the trail at 6am, and, regardless, in summertime the wildlife is a bit more languid during the daylight hours. But, ah.. the fall! Mild temps all day long, wildlife scurrying to prepare for winter, and just enough dampness on the ground to make walking a bit more clandestine. Of course you already know about the beautiful fall foliage… (more…)

Oncotype DX Colon Cancer Assay: When To Proceed

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

group of women doctorsDetermining when to proceed with colon cancer treatment is one of the most difficult decisions a patient and his or her loved one may ever make.  In this article, Professor David Kerr, from the Oxford Clinical Trials Research Unit (Oxford, UK), provides ecancerTV an interview describing the “Oncotype DX Colon Cancer Assay.” (more…)

Oncologist Perspective: Cancer Doctor Coping Mechanisms

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Stephen Iacoboni with his book The Undying SoulHere’s a question most readers ask me: “How do you handle all the loss and misery that comes to you daily in your work?”

Well, the short answer is: this is exactly what my book, The Undying Soul, tries to explain. But, a decent answer, for now, might go as follows:

Most medical oncologists exercise a few standard coping mechanisms: intellectualizing, detachment, and keeping too busy to look back. I have to admit that I partake in each of these myself, but I try to do so less than many of my colleagues. (more…)

Cancer Cells: The Miracles and Glitches of Biology

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Breast cancer cellsOne of the most often asked questions in my day-to-day practice is this: “Doctor, what makes my cells stop working the way they should…?”  This question usually follows after I have explained that the reason they are anemic or deficient in platelets or white cells, or have cancer, is because some “malfunction” has developed in the way their cells normally work.

We are mostly all born into a healthy body that just naturally does what it does: digest food, excrete waste, pump blood, metabolize energy, see, hear, move etc.  When one stops to think about it, which one rarely does if she/he hasn’t been to medical school, one realizes that 99.9999% of what goes on in our bodies is involuntary. It all happens naturally by a design that becomes more unfathomable the more one delves into it. (more…)