Treating cancer can be draining work. Staff at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance got to hear how much their commitment to patients matters, during a patient “gratitude panel” organized by Patient Experience.
When Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was newly diagnosed with melanoma in January, her surgical oncologist acknowledged the delicate and difficult nature of having cancer and being the public face of the Emerald City.
Developments about former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma diagnosis and the subsequent story about his positive response to treatment has made me pause and reflect on the extraordinary progress in a remarkably short period of time, both in the treatment of what used to be considered one of the most deadly cancers and in the very rapid advancement of immunotherapy. In August 2015, President Carter was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma that had spread to his liver and brain. He had surgery for the tumors in the liver and focused radiation for those in his brain followed by immunotherapy with a drug – pembrolizumab – classified as an anti-PD-1 antibody. A happy update indicated that President Carter was having an excellent response to the immunotherapy: there have been no new tumors.
A new study coauthored by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s Director of Surgery, Dr. David Byrd, shows strong evidence that removing key sentinel lymph nodes leads to the same long-term survival for most patients diagnosed with early stage melanoma as fully removing additional lymph nodes. Removing only sentinel lymph nodes provides better outcomes and less post-treatment complications.
On Saturday, SCCA and the Melanoma Research Foundation will present the Northwest Melanoma Symposium: Science to Survivorship in Seattle. Patients, physicians, and the public will be able to participate in Saturday’s event, where speakers will share the latest in care, medicine, therapies, and science. One of the experts invited to speak is Dr. Robert Arnold Johnson, a psychiatrist and chair on the Provider Health Committee at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. His topic: Grief. His presentation will be out of the ordinary. Johnson tells us why. “This session may seem very strange as it proceeds, because I, the speaker, will hardly speak.