By Jose Angel Sanchez, MD
“I am GC, and I have renal cancer.”
I heard a calm voice on the other end of the phone. I jumped from my bed and exclaimed, “What?”
I had met GC many years ago, during my high school years in Tegucigalpa. I took a deep breath and said, “Tell me about it.”
Two hours later, we were at my office discussing the case when his wife stated to me, “You see, doctor, I am a cancer survivor. I had cervical cancer, but I am cured now.”
I gave her a smile and said, “Yes, cancer can be cured.” Her husband was recently diagnosed with a localized clear cell carcinoma the size of a strawberry in his left kidney.
“You need surgery,” I said to him. “You have a very good chance of being cured. I will call the surgeon right now.”
After the consultation, a lot of ideas came to my mind. I wish I could tell all my patients with cancer in Honduras that they have a very good opportunity to be cured. It is not as easy for patients with cancer in low- and middle-income countries, where cancer is usually detected at the late stages of the disease, and mortality rates are very high.
I am doing something for some patients, but am I doing enough?
What can I do for patients with cancer who do not have the same opportunity as GC? What actions can I take to decrease the high cancer mortality rate in a low- and middle-income country?
The task seems overwhelming, but we have to try. “I have a voice, and I can speak. I have to get involved, I have to speak about cancer,” I thought. Then my mind kept going:
“I could write some poems or some papers, but will that be enough? Of course not, we need to act. I will do something, I will participate, and I will help patients like GC. We can decrease cancer mortality together, as patients, doctors, cancer societies, governments, and media.”
Six days later, I received a phone call.
“I am Doctor F, and we just performed the surgery on your patient GC. Everything was fine, the tumor was removed completely. We had to sacrifice his left kidney, but he is cancer free now.”
I felt happy and said to myself, “It is possible to cure cancer.”
Dr. Sanchez is a member of ASCO’s International Affairs Committee and a hematologic oncologist at Hospital Escuela, University of Honduras.