Bob Riter

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Medical Advice on Facebook

Posted May 22nd, 2017

I’m often startled by the medical advice that people give to their friends on Facebook. Sometimes it takes the form of saying, “You should do this,” but often it’s more subtle and simply involves sharing a link. Before people post something of this nature, I wish that they would consider the following questions: Have you […]


Bob Riter

Making Friends With Your Oncologist

Posted May 12th, 2017

An oncologist once remarked to me that her patients routinely told her about their personal lives – like they were trying to strike up friendships. I can understand this. It’s not that patients expect their oncologists to invite them over for dinner, but there is a desire to make some sort of human connection. I’m […]


Bob Riter

Connecting Cancer Scientists and Cancer Patients

Posted May 1st, 2017

Most cancer research begins in laboratories where scientists seek to understand why normal cells mutate into cancer cells and then travel, wreaking havoc, elsewhere in the body. These basic scientists are generally more familiar with test tubes than with cancer patients. Nationally, there’s growing interest in building partnerships between scientists and patients. For example, review […]


Bob Riter

Why do engineers study cancer?

Posted April 13th, 2017

You probably know that cancer research is routinely done by biologists, but you might be surprised to learn that engineers increasingly contribute to our understanding and treatment of this disease. Here are some examples: Cancer cells migrate through the body to take root in distant organs. These cells have to survive the “flowing river” of […]


Bob Riter

Cancer Makes Everyone Stupider – and Smarter

Posted March 30th, 2017

A professor recently told me that he instantly became 50% stupider when his doctor told him that he had cancer. He said that his own research in his field of study is careful and thoughtful. When he learned that he had cancer, the “careful part” of his brain shut down. Rather than thinking logically about […]


Bob Riter

Cancer Patients, Make Your Wishes Clear

Posted March 22nd, 2017

In the cancer world, patients often differ on what they want to hear from their doctors. Here are some examples: Some patients want to know — in detail — the various pros and cons of every treatment option, while other patients just want to know what the doctor thinks is best. Some patients want to […]


Bob Riter

Nice People Abound in the Cancer World

Posted March 1st, 2017

One of the volunteers at the Cancer Resource Center recently said to me, “Every person I meet with cancer is nice.” It’s an interesting observation and one that other volunteers have made as well. I’ve been in the cancer world for more than 20 years and I think it’s generally true. Not because nice people […]


Bob Riter

Good Care is a Partnership Between Patient and Doctor

Posted February 14th, 2017

I spend much of my time helping seriously ill patients navigate the health care system. As a result, I’m constantly talking with patients about their interactions with doctors and other health professionals. Although each encounter is unique, I’m increasingly aware of some universal truths that contribute to good patient-doctor encounters. Not surprisingly, good encounters require […]


Bob Riter

When Your Partner is in Denial About Cancer

Posted January 18th, 2017

I recently spoke with a woman who was stressed because her husband has cancer and he seemed to be in denial over the seriousness of his situation. What was especially upsetting to her was that he didn’t want to address any end of life issues like drafting a will. I’ve been mulling this over ever […]


Bob Riter

A Field Guide to Family Members of Cancer Patients

Posted January 6th, 2017

There are a variety of styles that spouses and other close family members adopt to help a family member with cancer. Here are several negative styles that I’ve observed through the years as well as the style that is most likely to be helpful. Combatants are always looking to pick a fight, often with doctors […]