Mercy Clinic Oncologist Featured in Cancer Documentary

April 1, 2015


Part 3 of the Ken Burns documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” airs tonight and will feature Mercy Clinic hematologist/oncologist Dr. Suzanne Cole.


The documentary airs on OETA Channel 13 at 8 p.m.


The documentary traces the history of cancer and its treatment, and shares the stories of cancer patients and physicians. A camera crew spent nearly two years with Dr. Cole at Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, West Virginia.


Dr. Cole wants to offer cancer patients hope, she believes in being honest and transparent to them. The five-year survival rate for cancer increased from 49 percent to 67 percent between 1975 and 2010, but cancer remains a tenacious foe. The first two segments of the documentary often highlighted cancer survival. The third deals more with how most Americans with cancer experience their treatment. With that in mind, she offered the following thoughts about her appearance in the documentary.



Part 3 of the PBS documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” attempts to tell the story of what it is like for patients with cancer who are not able to travel for the latest clinical trials due to lack of resources or support. The vast majority of cancer patients in America receive their cancer care in their communities from local oncologists. While it is very encouraging to hear about all of the new targeted therapies which are helping patients with cancer go into remission, the reality is that in this day and age, many patients with cancer do not have a magic bullet that will cure them despite our efforts.



As an oncologist, I think it is enormously important to help patients understand what the cancer can do and what the treatments can or cannot accomplish. I fundamentally believe that patients who want to know their prognosis should be given an honest assessment of what could happen to them, so that they can make the best choices and plans for themselves. They have a right to know what they are up against. I think it is my role to lay out the options, help patients understand those options, and then support the patients with compassion as we move forward with whatever course of action is best for that individual patient.


Learn more about “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” and read patients’ stories here.

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