How Fear of Cancer can Paralyze Patients [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Kevin_Ryan_cancer_medical_ethicsGuest: Dr. Kevin Ryan

Presenter: Neal Howard

Guest Bio: Kevin P. Ryan, MD FACP COL USAF (ret) graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University, summa cum laude, AOA from Georgetown Medical School and was heavily decorated during his career in the USAF medical corps retiring as a full Colonel . He is a clinical full Professor at UC Davis School of Medicine and has authored numerous research and clinical papers, book chapters, and abstracts in Hematology/Oncology.

Segment overview: In this segment, Dr. Kevin Ryan, author of “When Tumor is The Rumor and Cancer is the Answer: A comprehensive text for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families” discusses how fear of cancer can paralyze patients and even lead to a bad outcome. He also touches on medical ethics and advice to family members on talking with their loved ones about their cancer.

Transcription – When Tumor is the rumor and Cancer is the answer.

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio for this Health Supplier Segment. Our guest in studio is the author of a brand new book, ‘When Tumor is the Rumor and Cancer is the Answer’. Welcome Dr. Kevin Ryan to Health Professional Radio. Thanks for joining us today doctor.

Dr. Kevin Ryan: Thank you very much. I appreciate being here.

N: Great. A very intriguing topic for a book, ‘When Tumor is the Rumor and Cancer is the Answer’. Talk about the title of that book.

R: Well, that’s precisely how it happens. Your doctor, your primary care manager, perhaps your specialist that you’re seeing for whatever reason, yourself, your loved one, someone in your family, notices something is wrong. Any of the symptoms that could be tumor and there are so many change in bowel habits, a new pain, or weight loss, new areas of growth in somewhere, new headaches alighted go on and on, but they’re new. And there are rumors that there could be tumor. And then a certain sex of those people and that’s about 1.85 Million people a year which 600,000 will die and 80% of us know someone with cancer one way or the other, or will know someone. The rumor is tumor and the answer is cancer for this people. It is devastating. It is frightening. It is a loss of control. It is “Will I Die?”, “Can I handle this?”, “What about my family?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”. And more and more anxiety, fear of the unknown.

N: And more than any other diagnosis, the patient and the friends, everyone, they’re devastated by just the diagnosis let alone what’s to come.

R: There are studies that backed it up besides common sense and living a life and knowing your own personal feelings and sharing them with others. There is literature that backs it up, a heart attack, AIDS, the latest infectious disease from a mosquito bite in some exotic locale. None of them create the same … that’s a diagnosis of malignancy counters up. That it is because it can go anywhere, it can hit at any time. It is an equal opportunity abuser. It’s a non-respecter of persons. Most people think, it’s the end of the road.

N: You say that most people think that it’s the end of the road, it’s not necessarily. But what about, this anxiety, doesn’t that add to the overall outcome during this cancer journey?

R: Absolutely. Anxiety, as we all know is not the same as fear. We may think it’s the same as fear, the physiologic feelings are the same as fear. But, give it a little more thought. Fears when you know what the enemy is. Anxiety is when you don’t know. Anxiety is the fear of the unknown and there is a solution to anxiety. Whether it’s your first little league in baseball game, or your first speech in front of people or your first anything, it’s fear of the unknown. And the way you treat it, is knowledge. That’s what cures it, knowledge.
N: So simply learning about what you’re fearful of, takes away at least that part of the anxiety.

R: It certainly does. And having an oncologist that spends the time with the family, and with the loved ones and with the patients to let them know that they’re going to be heroes. And 30 years, I saw zero exceptions. No matter how many times, I myself said, “I could never handle it.”. I heard patients say, “I could never handle it.”. I heard nurses say, “I don’t know how they handle it.”. I have always seen heroes. It is amazing how we are hardwired to handle the hardest things to handle. But if you think about it, people go in a war, granted that they may have a higher mission and a higher calling. But in the course of arm conflict, I don’t know how they can handle it, well they do. But they do, they do. And the same thing happens when the enemy is cancer, you see heroes, you see deeply inside the human psyche, you see the spirituality of the person, the sense of purpose, the sense of ‘Why are we here?’, the sense of fight. And it is really humbling to be around.

N: Your book, ‘When Tumor is the Rumor and Cancer is the Answer’, is this a book that’s geared for the family members to help with the patient? Or is it something that’s geared for the patient to understand what’s going on with them and thereby, help those who may still have anxiety?

R: Both and more. It takes everyone on a journey from the very beginning which is autonomy. And that is the sense that they are the co-captain of their ship. MD does not and should not mean, ‘Magnificent Demagogue’. They are the co-captain of their ship and they get there through knowledge. It helps them know. And if an oncologist is sensitive to it, the medical student, and a resident, and a fellow in oncology, it will help them also in seeing the journey that these patients are inevitably going to go through. They’re going to through autonomy, and anxiety, and the pressure, and psychosocial issues, and self-talk, and what do other people say to somebody who has cancer, and clinical trials, and future therapies, and I can go on and on. All of those are going to occur in the journey that are about to embark on. All of those have a lot to say about themselves. And that’s what’s in the book, it’s a guide book. It’s a comprehensive, compassionate, and comprehensible text for these patients and their supporting staff.

N: Now, before you arm yourself with a book such as yours and get this knowledge, this understanding, anxiety often breeds desperation, and sometimes patients and family members are looking for some alternative methods to treating cancer. Talk about some of these alternative methods that could possibly be beneficial.

R: The worst thing that the patient can do is one of the most common things that the patient does. They see one of the most famous doctors ever to walk to modern earth and that’s ‘Dr. Google’. They have no idea what in the hell they’re doing, when they initially start out. None whatsoever. It’s like being at one of the major ports of embarkation of Fords and let’s say there’s a thousand Ford Focuses and I’d say, ‘Find mine’, they can’t find it. I say find mine as a why one. They still can’t find it. I kind of more details, they still can’t find it. They need the vehicle identification number. They are individuals. Furthermore, besides being individuals, they’re going to get individualized therapy. Looking to Google first is not a wise idea. But, 40% of patients do it and you would be amazed of how out of the woodwork comes uncle Joe, and sister Sally, and brother-in-law Bob. Well, kick the poor choices and choose an anecdote which is not antidote, and … Now, least not to say that the planted animal kingdom has not and will not give us a very quote medications. But medications studied scientifically and put through clinical trials. But absolutely, it has given us some many things, many things. But there are Carnie, Barkers and Hawkers. And since the beginning of time, there’s been medicine men and the shaman and the one saying something that’s just too good to be true. You will know the parody of the cow powder that you’re taking. You don’t even know what the active ingredient is. You will know if it interacts with the medication that you’re taking from an allopathic medicine. You frankly don’t know anything about it, except you think it works. And about 13% of the time, that placebo effect kicks in.

N: What about when, well, cancer isn’t necessarily answer?

R: The rumor maybe you think it’s tumor, that’s what you mean and it turns out, that’s not cancer at all, well this is a great celebration. This is a cause for elation. This is a reason for the physician to give happy news and good news to the patient and to tell them that this is great. It could also mean that it’s a highly, highly curable or highly, highly treatable malignancy which is simple excision will take care of the tumor completely. It may still be a cancer, but it may be very, very slow growing and easily handled by conventional therapy.

N: Well normally, when there’s I guess, not the Big C as it worth, you just explained it, sometimes, it’s something that can be treated very simply without chemo and things to that nature, without the long journey of cancer. And sometimes, maybe it’s something within the tissue that’s not necessarily cancer, but once you educate yourself, you’re aware.

R: That’s right. Let’s make the distinction which will help you at the third part of that question. And that would be, a tumor means growth. Growth does not mean cancer. Cancer is uncontrolled growth of malignant cells that don’t stop dividing and don’t obey the rules of the tumor area, the tissue area that they are mimicking. They’re the great mimickers. A liver cell, think about this, it’s magical. I’s the mystery of how are we wonderfully made. A liver cell knows, “Okay, I’ve reached liverness, I’m going to stop. I’m a liver cell.”. But I have to tell cellular carcinoma, a liver cancer cell says, “No.”. And furthermore, I’m going to recruit various blood vessels to give me a way to get more nutrition. And furthermore, I’m going to turn off the immune system around me or in parried in some way. I’m going to spread both locally and perhaps, to distant area, that’s cancer. Tumor, just means growth. It does not necessarily mean cancer, but a cancer is a tumor.

N: Is there a website related to your book, ‘When Tumor is the Rumor and Cancer is the Answer’?

R: Yes. And it’s exactly the name of the book,

N: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you today Dr. Ryan.

R: Thank you, same here.

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard on this Health Supplier Segment with Dr. Kevin Ryan, author of ‘When Tumor is the Rumor and Cancer is the Answer’, comprehensive text for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Listen in and download at SoundCloud.