Dr. Magtibay explains what inspires him to help women fight gynecologic cancers.
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Dr. Magtibay's Inspiration to Help Women with Gynecologic cancers When a patient receives the diagnosis of ovarian cancer obviously they are devastated, and it is a very, very serious cancer. That is a battle or a fight that the patient has to face along with us. We are going to help you through that. Many times the Internet can be unhelpful in certain situations because women will get on the Internet and they will see survival rates associated with ovarian cancer, and without fully understanding or appreciating her individual situation, sometimes that’s incorrect information and makes ovarian cancer sounds worse than it is. In general, when I see a patient with advanced ovarian cancer, we say that her survival rate or cure rate, meaning at five years we can say that we don’t have any disease, is about one in five, or 20 percent. Now that sounds pretty miserable to start with, but I look at it differently. I look at it as I don’t know if you, as a patient, come into my office with ovarian cancer, I don’t know, are you going to be that one in five or not? My philosophy is that we hope you are and I am going to manage you as if you are. I am going to be as aggressive as I can within reason, and of course that’s based on your health, the patient’s ability to handle a large operation, patient’s ability to handle chemotherapy. We have to take all of that into consideration, but I am going to treat you as if I am planning for a cure because I don’t know if you are going to be that one in five. I hope you are. If you are, that’s fantastic. If you are not, it still means that we have treatment even after it recurs. We tend to look at ovarian cancer now more as a chronic disease than we used to in the past because patients are living longer and longer and longer. With our last GOG study, GOG-172, for the first time ever, we’ve had over 50 percent of patients living after five years. That’s the first time ever. So we are making strides in managing ovarian cancer. When ovarian cancer recurs we used to say that it’s 100 percent universally fatal. It’s true that oftentimes we can’t cure those patients, but again, my philosophy is that we try. I have patients who have had recurrent ovarian cancer who have gone to other doctors and said, “We can’t do anything for you.” And we treat them with more surgery or more chemotherapy. And I can think of one patient in particular right now who is ten years out after her recurrence, and she sends me a Christmas card every year thanking me for the care she received at Mayo Clinic. And that’s very gratifying because, from a statistical standpoint, yes, we don’t cure all of you or many of you, but we do have cures and as long as the patient is willing to fight, we are willing to fight. Managing the cancer patients in my practice, and do benign gynecologic surgeries, as well, but managing the cancer patients really is the most gratifying part of my practice. These patients are so grateful for anyone who will give them some hope, anyone who will fight for them, anyone who is willing to hold their hand or talk to them on the telephone. And like I said before, we put them through very aggressive operations, but very few of them complain. They may have complications and devastating complications and long-term complications, but most are appreciative for the fighting chance, and to receive a card from them knowing that they are alive and well and that they have beaten the statistical odds is just incredible. I really feel privileged to do what I do and I feel very privileged to work at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic has opened a number of doors for me as a physician that I am sure I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunities at any other place. There are two things of my life that are of great importance to me. One is my family, my wife and children -- they’re number one and always will be. But very close second is my practice as a surgeon and particularly as a gynecologic oncologist because we help many, many women. We