Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. The 2017 estimate is 135,430 new diagnoses of colorectal cancer and 50,260 deaths. The goal for health care providers is to reduce these deaths through early detection. Colon polyps can develop over 10-15 years. When detected early, polyps can be removed reducing the risk of developing and dying of rectal or colon cancer. Early detection becomes your ally yet, only 60% of Americans who should get screened, do.
“Can you tell me what radiation therapy is?” my patient, a retired healthcare worker, quickly but quietly asked me as soon as I entered the exam room. I knew before I had even entered the room that she had just been diagnosed with a lung cancer. She was clearly overwhelmed by her diagnosis, and even though she had worked in the healthcare field for decades of her life, she had never come across radiation therapy or even a radiation oncologist.
Significant achievements have been made in the management of patients with cancer from research involving clinical trials over the last few decades. In fact, from November 2015 to October 2016, a whopping 20 different therapies for more than 12 different cancers were approved (Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2016). Cancer clinical trials are designed to achieve specific goals such as determining the safest and most effective dose of a new drug, uncovering the potential side effects of interventions, and finding new surgical or radiological methods.
Clinical Trial Phases
Research, which leads to human testing, often starts at the test tube level. For cancer, this may include treating cancer cells with the drug(s) of interest.
A Physician Assistant (PA) is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional who is trained in a format similar to physicians. The role of the PA was first implemented by Dr. Eugene Stead Jr. of Duke University Medical Center to help alleviate a shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Stead assembled the first PA class in 1965 choosing four Navy Hospital Corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service. The curriculum was based upon Stead’s knowledge of the fast-track training doctors received during World War II. The first PA class graduated from Duke University on October 6th, 1967. Today, there are 229 accredited PA programs nationally. The average time it takes to complete both the classroom and supervised clinical work is 28 months after receiving a bachelor’s degree.
I was enjoying my very busy life as a radiation oncologist, in a relationship, running, going to CrossFit daily, and taking care of three dogs, when my world changed with a simple blood test.
At 3:30 in the afternoon on July 9th, I saw my last new patient of 2013, and was admitted to the hospital at 8 am the next day. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia with multiple critical issues. I was not permitted to leave the hospital for 23 days. It took a village to come to my aid, providing care for my menagerie of pets, including the dogs and two cats, taking care of my house and assuming the care of all of my patients.
While I was in the hospital, I was not able to see my dogs (okay, I snuck out to the sidewalk a couple times, our little secret). After discharge, caring for my dogs gave me the necessary motivation to move, after losing muscle and strength during my stay in the hospital.