We Save Lives (and I Apologize)

Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune

Words have an impact. Whether the speaker is a politician, an entertainer, or a blogger, they must think about the words they choose–and choose carefully. I try to do that, but despite my scrupulous care, I made a blunder in my word choices in a previous blog and I want to apologize for it.

You may recall my last posting conveyed some thoughts on my profession, ranging from Sherlock Holmes to surgeon’s “fingerprints. And in a section dealing with statistics, I said “Some days every prostate I look at will be malignant and I feel like Dr. Death.”

I really should have known better. Within a few hours of posting, I received the following from Marty, a friend, and prostate cancer warrior:


No, no.  Better to realize you are giving these men (myself included!) a 2nd chance at life as they and their doctors learn that they now need to enter the “treatment phase” of their now discovered prostate cancer.  

And B’ruch HaShem may that treatment extend their lives for many productive years to come!

We MUST stay positive.

Marty was so right. The diagnosis of prostate cancer is absolutely not a death sentence. By far, most men diagnosed with prostatic cancer will live long and fruitful lives, enjoying careers, family, and free time.

So instead of referring to myself as Dr. Death, I should have chosen an honorific like Dr. Decision Tree (I know, I know, it doesn’t have much zing.) My diagnosis is a key piece of the data set that guides the patient and his medical team as to whether to treat (surgery, radiation, hormonal modulation, immunotherapy) or not to treat (active surveillance) the patient’s cancer.

(And while we are talking about prostate cancer, here is my annual plug for PSA testing. Ask your physician if it is right for you and the men in your life.)

Marty, you have improved my mindset. I will watch my words with the focus of a laser beam. You reminded me that, as one of my previous partners used to say, “We are pathologists. We save lives!”

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