Lynda D. Roman, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, specializes in gynecological cancer treatment at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC. She recently shared her perspective on treating cancer patients with HSC News.


Few diagnoses impact individuals as profoundly as a cancer diagnosis. Coping with the psychological aspects can be as daunting, if not more so, than the physical ones. What has become profoundly clear to me is that priorities and perspectives vary widely between individuals. What helps one person cope might be detrimental to another.

One common misconception in health care is that all patients react similarly and have the same needs and wishes. With this belief can come judgmentalism when a patient is not reacting according to what “should be.” It is important for health providers, family members and friends to be sensitive to a patient’s needs, and not overwhelm them when they can only take in so much. Similarly, it is important for patients to inform their physician how they are “wired.”

Would they prefer to hear the worst possible scenario to prepare for every eventuality, or would they prefer to hear information as things play out? (With the understanding that statistics apply to populations rather than individuals, and two people with the same type and stage of cancer might fare quite differently.)

Lastly, it is important for all to remember the importance of the word hope. (I have come to decide that HOPE, rather than LOVE, is the most important four-letter word in the English language.) Hoping for the best and living life to the fullest, with the understanding that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow, can help enormously in the search for perspective and balance.