Michi M. Shinohara, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, cancer-related skin complications
It’s meaningful to care for people in a longitudinal way, seeing them through all the different phases of their lives.”
Why do you practice dermatology?
I have the unique opportunity to help patients alleviate skin symptoms associated with cancer treatment. These symptoms tend to be very visible and bothersome, like itching or peeling. Showing people how to take care of their skin while undergoing treatment can have a big impact on their quality of life. I also treat patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), a rare type of cancer that originates in white blood cells but affects the skin. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about this disease, so I find it rewarding to help patients understand what the condition is and how we can treat it. Most people live with CTCL for quite a long time, and I want to make sure those years are good years.
I am a physician who is triple-board-certified in internal medicine, dermatology and dermatopathology (the cellular causes of skin diseases). My clinical expertise includes the treatment of a variety of cancer-related skin complications. I see patients at the Dermatology Clinic at UWMC-Roosevelt, and I also serve as the co-director of SCCA’s Cutaneous Lymphoma Clinic.
CTCL is often diagnosed only after substantial delay, and it can be challenging to treat. I am establishing a national registry for patients with CTCL so that we as a field can better understand the disease and develop novel treatment strategies. In addition to conducting clinical trials for CTCL, I also participate in collaborative studies with the United States Cutaneous Lymphoma Consortium.
What personal experiences have shaped your approach to care?
I was treated for thyroid cancer at SCCA, and that experience made me appreciate the fact that people can have very different ways of coping with illness. Personally, I valued being able to let go of the problem; while I still participated in making decisions, I chose not to be involved in all the details or to read every new study about my disease so that I could instead focus on living my life. As a physician, I strive to understand your motivations, identify what you see as an ideal outcome and respect your desires about how much information you want to know.