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Advice to Young Oncologists

Advice to Young Oncologists

  • Advice to Young Oncologists: Sage words from colleagues who are well-established in their fields, brought to you by the editorial board of the journal ONCOLOGY.
  • The manner in which you are going to treat a patient should be your second decision. Why you think the patient needs to be treated (eg, cure, palliation, etc.) should be your first. — Jay Cooper
  • In the changing world of oncology, concentrate on what you love to do. It will keep you focused and centered and provide you with the certainty that you’ll need in order to enjoy the practice of oncology throughout your career. — Melanie Royce
  • Say yes to every opportunity. Work hard, play hard. Be a leader in your practice and your community—set an example, they are watching you! Take 2 weeks off in a row each year. Listen to your patients—put yourself in their shoes and care for them as you would your family. — John Marshall
  • Go into a different field. (Just kidding!) — E. David Crawford
  • Listen to your patients and be honest in helping them make treatment decisions. Patients want to know the truth about their diagnosis and prognosis—we oncologists are the ones who tend to cower in these discussions. If you learn about your patients, you will know how best to frame important discussions honestly and openly. — Louis Potters
  • Keep Edmund Burke's adage in mind: “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” The breakthroughs of today are the foundation for the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Medicine is a selfless profession done on behalf of the patients, who place their most precious possession—their lives—in your hands. Be innovative and apply the successes outside of oncology and medicine to improve care. — Nora Janjan
  • Find a mentor you trust and respect. If you are going into academic medicine, publish and write grants. — L. Michael Glodé
  • Be gentle with the old and frail: get to know them, start with a conservative dose schedule, check their well-being, keep them comfortable, avoid complications and hospitalizations, and do not add to their symptoms with excessive treatments and tests. Communicate with everyone involved, do not act alone, and always get advice from the best colleagues you can find. Focus on taking care of your patients, follow up and follow through, and do not drop the ball. — N. Simon Tchekmedyian
  • What patients most desire is hope—not false hope or cheery optimism—but the true hope that you provide by being available to them in their need. This will eclipse even the value that you offer from your oncological expertise. — William C. Wood
  • Embrace the real-time analysis of health data to continuously improve the delivery of care and its outcomes. You can accomplish in a few years what it previously took decades to do. — James Mulshine
  • Take all your vacation time and don’t do email on vacation. Eat dinner every night with your family—no iPhones or TV, just conversation. Take care of your family and friends. — Hyman Muss
  • Listen carefully when meeting with patients and families. Cancer care is a multidisciplinary effort; include your nursing and social work colleagues in planning care. Share the responsibility. — Mary McCabe
  • Be a listener, not a preacher, when speaking to patients. If patient information doesn’t make sense, do not trust anybody, even yourself—always go further. Try to review pathology slides with someone, even if it’s at a tumor board; you can gain valuable information at those meetings. Oncologists always go to heaven! — Vincent Vinciguerra
  • For those with young families: Spend time with your kids. Work can wait, and children grow up fast. — James Yu
  • Choosing a good mentor is critical to career success and happiness, but mentorship should come from many different people. Some mentors have a good work-life balance, others will be exceptionally efficient, and others may be the caring, compassionate doctor we all want to be. But each of these mentors will also have shortcomings—none of us are super-human. — Lee Ellis
  • Never forget the fundamentals you learned in your training. Ask for help when you need it. Look to contribute toward an effective multidisciplinary team. — Paul Mathew
  • Carve out time for research early in your career, at your first post-fellowship position if possible. Treat everyone with respect every day—this is easier said than done, but civility is critical for all of medicine but particularly in cancer care. — Judd Moul
  • It may be just another clinic day for you, but not for your patients. Make them feel that they are the most important thing in your life when you’re in the exam room with them. Take the education of the next generation seriously—if you are helping to educate students, residents, and fellows, recognize this is important and it’s an honor to continue the tradition. — Judd Moul
  • Don’t let big government, with its plethora of regulations and paperwork, discourage you. Your contribution to humanity, at the end of each day, will be its own satisfying reward. — M. Steven Piver
  • Correspond with others in your field of interest. If a senior faculty member offers you a position on an editorial board or committee, accept their offer even if you feel that you aren’t experienced enough…you will learn! — Nicole Shonka
  • Find balance in your life, stay abreast of current best practices, remain empathetic, and identify an area of true excellence. — Steven Rosen
  • Academia provides a nice balance of administration, research, education, and patient care. Committing yourself 100% to an oncology practice can be emotionally and physically draining. Having balance also helps you be philosophical about the political vagaries of the academic world: Difficulties that arise during one’s academic career pale in comparison to the pathos we see daily in our practices. However, working within a university provides the benefits of camaraderie with colleagues and the satisfaction that comes from teaching. — Franco Muggia
  • Consider advice that others may provide regarding your career, but make final decisions based on what you are passionate about. — Lynn D. Wilson


Everyone is unique....so is his/her cancer....

inggita @

Your job is not to cure but to care.....

inggita @

Last but not least - humour can be very appropriate at times. Whoever heard of " patient centered cars" when I meant "patient centered CARE"!!!

Kylie @

Understand your patients need for reassurance as this may be the first time they have come face to face with their own mortality. Reassure them that while their journey will be will challenging that you will stand beside them to offer support and provide a treatment plan and reviews that are tailored for their needs both now and into the future. Highlight the benefits of patient centered cars where a team of nurses, therapists, allied health specialists, councellors and volunteers will work with them to get the best outcome. If palliation is the only option reasure the patient that early referral leads to better symptom relief , quality of life and a sense of control for the patient. Finally, be kind to yourself. Debrief with a chosen support person and enjoy life. Like your patients - we never know when our time is up.

Kylie @

We need to be realistic and transparent with our limitations.
Don't try to play God.
Never say to a patient you have only 3 months to live, he may die in 6 weeks or outlive that 3 month period for a long while.
Never say your cancer is going to be cured, or that it is already cured. Cancers can recur well beyond the conventional 5-year bench mark. Even if it is completely eradicated, the patient could develop another new cancer.
The only promise we can confidently give to the patient is that we are going to try our best and offer what is currently available.

John @

excellent most needed and very timely

Muhammad Abbas @

every young oncologist, and for that matter every newly diagnosed cancer fighter should watch the movie:


this eye opening movie speaks for tiself!

shlomo @

Do not assume that because a patient doesn't ask about his prognosis that he doesn't want to know. A lot of people still ascribe to "no news is good news.". If a patient places his life and trust in your hands, he is trusting that.you, the expert, will keep him informed about his treatment, his condition, and if his prognosis has changed.

Linda @

Listen carefully to your patients. Attend to the details. Take care of the little things. I have gotten more "good press" and patient satisfaction out of explaining prevention of analgesic-related constipation than you could possibly imagine>


Be available to your patients; don't hearing without listening ;always give a message of hope ;

- M.D.Hamdi
Centre anti-cancer Zabana

hamdi @

As a retired FNP and wife of an 81 year old man just diagnosed with stage 0 LowGrade DCIS I most appreciate the foremost tip: 'listen." My husband had now consulted with his PCP; a family friend and Cancer researcher; and another friend who is a hematology oncologist. All have listened and taken his medical history and AGE into consideration, and we all have come to the conclusion that another lumpectomy, without radiation or tamoxiphan ... and vigilant follow-up is the best decision.

Maureen @

To cherish the life

jinsong @

Talk to families with warmth and caring. Most oncologists I've encountered maintain a remoteness and superiority that that fosters a lack of trust instead of the team approach that enhances patient care. I'm sure this is a protective mechanism, but makes one wonder why the physician chose an area of specialization where death is a frequent outcome.

Sandra @

Dead links after the first...try again!!

Richard @

Sorry you experienced this bug! Sometimes refreshing the page solves it.

The @

it is very practically valuable for young oncologist but also for professionals.It drives us to care patients with along development of advances in this field.


I called the referring Doc to give report of a initial visit of a patient. The PCP said the pt had already called. Patient's first words " he listens". Over the years , (40+) , I have found that to stick very firmly in the hearts and minds of patients and families.

The other axiom is an old one, from the days of Hippocrates:

I often hear at meetings big and small : add this or that. It can't hurt. YES, it can in more ways than one including financially.

Another attitude is to use young age of the patient to justify treatment: oh, he/she is so young, I think I need to give chemo x or y. Useless and ineffective treatment is just as much
so in the young as it is in the "old" most of the time!

Dilip @

Excellent! As a patient it is gratifying to see that when the doctors offer words of wisdom to their younger colleagues, a lot of it speaks to respecting and listening to the patient, and not shying away from the scariest aspects of the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment details (Dr. Potters). It all has to do with balance. I especially like the advice about more elderly patients (Dr. Tchekmedyian). My advice to oncologists, from a patient's perspective: Take your vacations, spend time with friends and your family, and whenever you are on duty or on call, be fully available to your patients. I commend you all on the tough and often discouraging job you do and I appreciate all of your care and compassion.

Elizabeth @

Excellent guide to excel in giving excellent care to cancer patients.

ap @

As a brand-new Oncologist, sometimes you'd be consulted by some patients/families who have already seen 'a Professor' in another city, and came to you with the written treatment suggested (almost a military order, to be clear). If you do agree, all OK, but what to do if you don't ? A difficult ethical, rather common situation for beginners. I used to handle it -if wouldn't agree- by getting other 'heavy-weight' Colleagues' opinions around my work circle, and since cancer isn't like an acute appendicitis, took/made the time for a 2nd. consult -the sooner, the better- and had a frank talk both with the Patient and close relatives on this issue. T. Cimerilli, MD (Medical Oncologist)

Tulio @

explain and reason with them your treatment choice for them. Don't leave (like some oncologist do) the choosing between alternatives up to them. This certainly isn't their field and area of expertise, and can cause them a great deal of unnecessary stress.

Think outside the box. Do all that you can (including use of alternative medicine and off lable drugs) to make the treatment acheive satisfactory results, as well as to prevent intiation of metastases, drug resistance, cachexia and toxisity.

shlomo @

develop a strong immunology backround for future oncologists/hematologists. Be more open to suggesting clinical trials to your patients. even if it costs you in income.

Donald @

Great compilation.. stimulating "oncology with human touch" in me

Gangadhar @

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