I often say that it's a privilege to take care of patients. I mean that in the truest sense of the word.
My name is Mark Bilsky. I'm an attending neurosurgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Chief of the Multidisciplinary Spine Tumor Service.
"Hi. How are you? So good to see you."
Patients are referred to us from all over the country with spine tumors. Oftentimes, they come to us with severe pain and are very concerned about the treatment, how it will impact their life and ultimately their cancer care. The most important role for me in clinic is to reassure the patient and to let them know that they're going to be taken care of with compassion and empathy.
"When you started, you had severe pain."
One of the most critical ways to do that is to educate the patient. What surprises patients so often is that, even though we're surgeons, very rarely do we recommend surgery as first course, unless there is no alternative.
The spine tumor group that I lead has revolutionized decision making in spine tumors and treatment. When we started to use stereotactic radiosurgery, which is a way to give very highly concentrated radiation, it became very clear that we could control any tumor with radiation alone. And that has changed the way we look at these tumors, the patient outcomes, and ultimately, the ability for patients to get back to therapy that's meaningful for their overall treatment.
I think cancer patients are the most amazing and remarkable people on earth. They have a resiliency, a strength and a courage that you rarely see in life. And if you can make their day better in any possible way, that's the goal. That's the end game.