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Sep 3, 2019

Cancering | The Surgery | Dr. Pierce | Dr. Howard

Cancer surgery is more than likely to be a part of everyone's cancer journey. It's a first step of many on the road to survivorship and is still a patient's best chance of cure. In this episode, Dr. JYP has a candid discussion with Dr. J. Harrison Howard, Surgical Oncologist, and Asst. Professor of Surgery at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute. Dr. Howard explains his role as a Surgical Oncologist and how he uses his extensive training, medical knowledge, and surgical skills to offer you the best options for beating your cancer. Plus, they explore the innovations in new surgical approaches, clinical trials, preparing for your surgery, speeding up recovery, and communicating with your cancer team.


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Key Takeaways:

1. Surgical Oncologists treat cancer, just like a medical oncologist or radiation oncologist, but their vehicle treat cancer is surgery.

2. A patients cancer team is patients working for them and the surgical oncologist is just a part of that team.

3. Surgeons offer the best options for treatment and the patient ultimately make the decisions. They are the team captain.

4. People don't die on the operating room table. While rare, they can die from complications after surgery.

5. To speed up your recovery, you need to move around, follow your surgeon's instructions, and keep a positive attitude after your surgery.

6. Being proactive and involved in your recovery can improve healing and help to avoid any medical complications.

7. Chemotherapy and radiation is used in sequence with surgery before and after an operation.

8. Make sure you're comfortable with the physicians that are treating you and be able to have open conversations with them.

9. Clinical trials improve cancer treatments, find new therapies, and give patients a better opportunity to beat their cancer.

10. Cancer treatment is a marathon, not a sprint.



Dr. J. Harrison Howard - Website


The Docs Said:

Surgical Oncologists treat cancer, just like a medical oncologist or radiation oncologist, but the vehicle we use to treat cancer is surgery. - Dr. Howard

One of the advancements in cancer surgery is the use of less invasive techniques. - Dr. Howard

The treatment sequence can often change so sometimes we have to do chemotherapy or radiation first and before the surgery. - Dr. Pierce

We've learned that by treating some tumors first with systemic therapy, whether that's chemo or targeted therapy or immunotherapy, we can actually get better outcomes long term. - Dr. Howard

Clinical trials are how we make progress. That is how we improve cancer outcomes, find new therapies and give people a better opportunity to beat their cancer. - Dr. Howard

Clinical trials are how we push the envelope in medicine, and it's critical to oncology, whether you're a surgeon or a medical oncology a radiation oncologist. That's how we improve outcomes. - Dr. Howard

As an oncologist, it's our job to give them the best options in our opinion, and medical knowledge to beat their cancer. - Dr. Howard

People don't die on the operating room table. I don't think people realize that they die from the complications after surgery. - Dr. Howard

After surgery, I'm going to turn into the mean doctor because you need to get up you need to walk. I'm not just trying to be a jerk. I'm trying to help you get out of the hospital and get home and get on your way to recovery. - Dr. Howard

It's very easy for cancer patients to get down in the dumps. Sometimes they'll go home and develop a bad attitude and lay in bed or lay around. All these things can contribute to poor healing and complications. - Dr. Howard

Even if we have performed the perfect operation with a perfect recovery. If the patient's not proactive and involved in their recovery, it can all go downhill quickly. - Dr. Howard

When I'm removing a tumor, number one, we want to get control of the tumor and get it all out. - Dr. Howard

Air doesn't make cancer spread; cancer spreads because it's cancer. That's the way it behaves. - Dr. Howard

Another myth is that cancer once it has grown or spread, you can't operate on it. In the last 10 years, we're operating on more and more cancers that are metastatic. - Dr. Pierce

Every cancer behaves differently. - Dr. Howard

A team approach and really getting input from different perspectives really helps develop the best plan for any given patient. - Dr. Howard

When people look up their cancer online, they're more likely to find the horror stories than they are the successes. - Dr. Howard

We can't beat every cancer, unfortunately. But in the last decade, we have made significant progress. - Dr. Howard

It's important to talk to your doctor and not look up stuff on Google, unless you have a reliable source. - Dr. Howard


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Until next time, be healthy, happy and always thriving.


The Cancering Show is brought to you by USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama. 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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