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Florida Matters: Cancer Town Hall

Mar 30, 2015

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF

On April 5, WUSF-TV will air the first part of the new Ken Burns’ documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.”  

Florida Matters hosted a preview of the film and a town hall discussion on cancer, and we're bringing you highlights of the discussion taped on location at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa with cancer patient and survivor Joshua Rivera, Dr. John Cleveland and Dr. Nam Tran. This special edition of Florida Matters will air Tuesday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 5 at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM. 

You can view a portion of the film below:  

 

CARSON COOPER: Filmmaker Ken Burns is set to release a new documentary, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.” It will air beginning this Sunday, April 5 on WUSF-TV. It’s sort of a biography of cancer from the first accounts of the disease in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the modern research that’s aiming for a cure. It’s also the story of the patients. Florida Matters previewed the documentary during a town hall meeting on this past Saturday at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Our panel included Dr. John Cleveland, Associate Center Director of Basic Science and Moffitt Cancer Center, cancer survivor Joshua Rivera, and Moffitt’s Dr. Nam Tran, who spoke about delivering a cancer diagnosis to a patient.

DR. NAM TRAN: I think from my personal philosophy I think that the best person to give the diagnosis to the patient is the treating physician who has the best rapport with the patient because I think that not only are you giving the diagnosis, you may be handing off the care, but you still maintain that continuity of patient-doctor relationship.

CARSON COOPER: Does a diagnosis automatically come with the most positive, well I don’t want to call it “spin”, but if the diagnosis is not good, do you downplay that and emphasize or perhaps even overemphasize the best case scenario for the patient?

DR. NAM TRAN: I think that once that big C-word comes out of the box, I think sometimes patients will have very limited retaining of anything that you say. So I think that you have to present that information in a very slow manner and a very directed manner that patients can absorb the information. So coming out immediately and saying “You have cancer, this is your prognosis”, I don’t think that they will retain that I think you are doing a disservice. But I think that coming out and saying “Well this is the diagnosis”,  that “we have options” and I think that starting out by acknowledging that there is treatment options, I think that’s the best approach to it.

CARSON COOPER: Joshua, did you feel like you got the whole story when your physician gave you the diagnosis?

JOSHUA RIVERA: Definitely not. I mean, my PCP who I love, she’s a wonderful lady, she was literally in over her head, so to speak. She did refer me to the right people, so about a week or two weeks after my initial surgery I came to Moffitt Cancer Center and it was my oncologist here who really gave me a clear picture of what I was about to face.

CARSON COOPER: Dr. Cleveland, I spoke to a member of our studio audience here before our taping, Ken, before the show, and he told me that he heard cancer is two-thirds bad luck.

DR. JOHN CLEVELAND: Two-thirds bad luck. . .

CARSON COOPER: In other words it’s mainly a roll of the dice, who gets it, who doesn’t. How true is that? Where are we with cancer research today?

DR. JOHN CLEVELAND: Well I mean we heard the statistics, one out of two men and one out of three women will get it sometime in their life.

CARSON COOPER: Some time in our life, and our life expectancy of course is getting a lot longer.

DR. JOHN CLEVELAND: Right. But it’s not just bad luck, I mean sometimes you can have inherited forms of cancer, where you were predestined to get that kind of cancer. So it’s more than just bad luck.

CARSON COOPER: It’s said that we’ve made more progress, though, in these last ten years than in all the prior decade combined. Would you agree with that?

DR. JOHN CLEVELAND: I would totally agree, I think everyone here at the Moffitt Center and cancer centers here and worldwide are extremely excited by the next twenty years ahead of us. We have immuno-therapies that, we saw an example of it here, that will be rolled out and will be part and parcel of most cancer therapies and give patients a chance that didn’t have a chance before. We’ve exploited our knowledge of the genome of cancers now, we’ve identified new targets and developed new drugs that specifically hit those targets, and we’re doing the though experiments to show that those drugs are really hitting the target desired. And so when we do due diligence and do the basic research behind it I think we’re really at a point where we’re gonna make a huge difference.

CARSON COOPER: Dr. John Cleveland and Nam Tran along with survivor Joshua Rivera. You can hear much more from Saturday’s town hall meeting at Moffitt Cancer Center Sunday, April 5 at 7:30 a.m. on Florida Matters. Ken Burns’ new documentary, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” will air beginning this Sunday on WUSF-TV.