The Cancer Experience-The Doctor, the Patient, the Journey By Roy B. Sessions, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, 2012, 205 pp, $56.98

The Cancer Experience-The Doctor, the Patient, the Journey By Roy B. Sessions, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, 2012, 205 pp, $56.98

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  • BOOK REVIEW Karen T. Pitman, MD, Section Editor


    By Roy B. Sessions, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.,Lanham, Maryland, 2012, 205 pp, $56.98

    The author, Roy Sessions, MD, is a nationally respected head

    and neck surgical oncologist who describes himself as writing

    this book in the autumn of my life. The reader may be

    tempted to be wary, believing this to be yet another book writ-

    ten by someone overwhelmed with nostalgia about the past. But

    it rapidly becomes apparent that this short book of only 184

    pages is, indeed, not a quick read that can be finished in a short

    period of time. Rather, I found myself contemplating and

    reflecting repeatedly while reading this treatise. It is a thought-

    provoking work that demands that the reader periodically make

    self-conclusions about their reaction to some of the authors


    The book represents a compilation of what has been learned

    over many years about the social dynamics of being a physician

    caring for patients with cancer. What is contained is more a

    function of the authors wisdom gained from interacting with

    this group of patients over an extended period of time. It is

    based more on this experientially gained wisdom rather than

    knowledge. It is not something derived from an aging physician

    longing for the departed past of how medicine was formerly

    practiced, but rather, it is a book to demonstrate those intangible

    qualities that differentiate an effective cancer physician from a

    mechanistic technophile who provides self-protection from the

    emotional complexities innate to all patients with cancer by just

    dealing with the physiologic consequences of the disease and

    not the person afflicted with the disease.

    The important role for this book is for the reader to recognize

    that it helps to define the needs of patients with cancer and how

    these needs can be met by an effective oncologist who recog-

    nizes and respects the importance of that special emotional sup-

    port provided by a physicianpatient relationship that is based

    on compassion, honesty, and adherence to high moral and ethi-

    cal standards. This book is, indeed, valuable for oncologists and

    nononcologists, students in the healthcare professions, and the

    lay public because it defines the essential ingredients that will

    need to be preserved and even enhanced as healthcare organiza-

    tions embark on developing and evaluating new care models

    that are cost-effective, accessible, and high-quality experiences

    for patients.

    I wholeheartedly recommend this book to practitioners, stu-

    dents, and the lay public. While it is a short book, it certainly

    cannot be read and appreciated in a short period of time.

    Although all chapters are well written, it is clear from chapter

    10 (titled Death and Dying: Natural and Otherwise) that the

    author has a keen interest in the subject of death and dying. If I

    have any criticism, and it is a small one, my sense is that the

    length and depth of this chapter is out of proportion to the

    others and is probably reflective of the authors level of interest

    in this topic rather than what might be more consistent with the

    rest of the book.

    In the interest of full disclosure, those reading this review

    should understand that I am a long-time friend of the author

    who became acquainted through our mutual interests in head

    and neck oncology. We have discussed many of the topics in

    this book while fishing for trout on numerous Western streams

    and rivers over the years. I have not ever discussed this book

    with the author and certainly not this review. Over the years, I

    have felt that such a book would be something that I might

    write. That will no longer be necessary, as Dr. Sessions has

    made a real contribution with this book that brings value to

    those in the healthcare professions or lay readers. I wholeheart-

    edly recommend The Cancer Experience, especially for thosehealthcare professionals contemplating pursuing a career that

    involves interacting with patients with cancer.


    Columbus, Ohio

    Head & Neck 36: 309, 2014Published online 29 November 2013 in Wiley Online Library ( 10.1002/hed.23559VC 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

    HEAD & NECKDOI 10.1002/HED FEBRUARY 2014 309


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