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Sep 13, 2021

On this episode, Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce talks with Dr. Martin Heslin, a surgical oncologist and the director of the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute, about the future of cancer treatment, what it means to cure cancer, the advancements in genetics and the importance of building personal relationships throughout the cancer journey.

Key Takeaways

- Your physician needs to be more than biology, science and facts; physicians need to build a relationship with their patients and support team. 

- One of the hardest conversations for a physician is to explain to a patient and the family that surgery is not the best option.

- For every different type of cell in your body, there is a different type of cancer.

- People fail to recognize that cancer is a part of yourself. Your body takes care of cancer cells every single day of your life.

- The future of cancer treatment may be understanding all the details of the mechanism of cancer and how we can alter those mechanisms in real time.

- To say to cure cancer as a single swipe of the sword won't happen because different cells have different reasons (for why) they go haywire. 

- A cancer cure means you die of something else.

- Cancer for every patient means 100 percent coming back, or it's a zero percent chance of coming back.


Dr. Martin Heslin Said:

I want to be the patient and family's greatest advocate to put your cape on, go in and save the day, do the big operation, and cure some people from a challenging disease, but it's also about the relationship.

Patients should ask three questions: Are you going to cure me? Are you going to make me live longer? Are you going to make me live better?

As we understand "the biology," I think our ability to define and personalize cancer therapy will be much greater.

A cancer cure means you die of something else. Some cancers you die with, and some cancers you die from. It's our job as cancer physicians and cancer coaches, if you will, to guide patients and their families through that process.


Dr. JYP Said:

When I describe a cancer cure to patients, I usually say that your labs are normal, your CT scans are normal, you have no evidence of cancer in your body, and that is over some time frame. If the cancer hasn't come back after that specified period of time, you are most likely cured.

There's so much that we don't know now that we're operating blind to say we think you have a certain percentage risk that this will come back. But as one of my professors said to me, that's all 1's and 0's. It's either 100 percent coming back, or it's a zero percent chance of coming back. It's just that we can't tell with our current and limited knowledge.


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USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute

The Cancering Show is brought to you by USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute. MCI is a cutting-edge cancer research and treatment center built to fight cancer smarter in Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. Our researchers and clinicians focus daily on the struggle against cancer, serving a potential catchment population of more than 4.1 million people, with a singular focus of advancing cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention throughout the Gulf Coast and beyond with science, technology and hope.

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Mitchell Cancer Institute is a member of USA Health.

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