When a doctor becomes a cancer patient

A cancer diagnosis can change your life forever. But when doctors receive a cancer diagnosis, it can also change the way they practice medicine. Just ask MD Anderson physicians Alyssa Rieber, M.D.; Naoto Ueno, M.D., Ph.D.; and Chitra Viswanathan, M.D. Below, they share how their cancer diagnoses have changed their work here at MD Anderson. Careful language and greater empathy Viswanathan, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, now has more empathy for her patients. “I don’t think I really fully understood what patients go through until I was under my own treatment,” she says. “It’s emotionally painful to lose your hair, but it’s also physically painful. It actually hurts when it’s falling out. I didn’t know that. I also didn’t realize how big of a problem nausea was and how necessary it is to manage those side effects.” The radiologist is also more careful of the language she uses when writing her reports. “I’m more cognizant now of how I phrase things because what I say in my report impacts patients’ treatment plans,” Viswanathan says. “A lot of times, we use words like ‘hemangioma’ (a harmless birthmark) or ‘focal nodular hyperplasia’ (a benign liver tumor) that happen to be incidental findings. So I try to be clear and concise, just to let the patients know those are not something to worry or be concerned about.” A closer look at side effects Ueno, who was diagnosed with sarcoma and other issues in 2007, says his experience as a cancer patient has changed the way he approaches side effects. “I experienced a lot of nausea while I was undergoing treatment,...