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I Live to Conquer Cancer: Dr. Stephanie Graff

Sep 23, 2019

As part of ASCO’s “I Live to Conquer CancerTM” Campaign to raise awareness of the critical importance of federally funded cancer research, members of the oncology community are invited to answer the question “Why do you live to conquer cancer?” Written stories and videos may be shared on ASCO.org and ASCO ConnectionTell us your story today.

Growing up in a small farming community in rural Missouri, Stephanie Graff, MD, was the first in her family to attend college. Because she was drawn to science from a young age, she enrolled in a 6-year medical program right out of high school. As she progressed from medical school to residency to a fellowship, she was fascinated by every aspect of the science of oncology—including cell biology and pharmacology.

Today, as a breast oncologist at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health, Dr. Graff is equally passionate about establishing a connection with her patients. “Being told you have cancer, whether it’s early-stage or advanced-stage disease, is a really scary, intense diagnosis for anyone. As a result, oncologists have an instant bond with their patients,” she explained.  

For Dr. Graff, it is essential to understand what her patients value so she can help them live better lives: "Patients needs to have space to tell me what matters to them, what their symptoms are, to trust me and confide in me.” That’s particularly true for people with metastatic cancer, who often want to spend their remaining time on the things that matter most to them—whether that’s attending a child’s wedding, traveling with their spouse, or participating in a clinical trial that could help future patients.

She also believes it is critical to incorporate patient perspectives into clinical trial design, planning committees, and national treatment guidelines. “Just knowing that patients are heard is so important,” she said.

Dr. Graff says patients should not have to spend their time fighting with insurance companies, worrying about the cost of their care, or battling red tape. “Cancer care should be seamless, and it should keep the heart of the patient at the center of it.” She believes we need to improve the cancer care system so all patients can focus on pursuing their goals—and living life to the fullest.

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