Raging hormones and a strong desire for back of the class naps. How does one teach high school kids about breast cancer?
My wife Imelda, who is my partner and counsels our patients about genetic cancer risk, and I had the opportunity to teach several students at Knoxville Catholic High School all about breast cancer. I taught these eager young minds about the science of breast cancer while Imelda taught them about the genetics of breast cancer. She covered topics such as who benefits from genetic testing, higher surveillance measures for increased familial risk and what lifestyle changes can be made to reduce that risk.
The Health Classes at KCHS are segregated between male and female students. I think the boys were more interested in the science and the girls were more interested in lifestyle choices and risk reduction. But not completely. The boys were definitely interested in the science behind breast cancer and wanted to know how engineered viruses could be used to cure cancer, but they were also interested in knowing why and how alcohol and smoking can cause cancer. The girls were very interested in family history and the need to screen for breast cancer, but they also wanted to know the science behind why small cancer is curable but a larger cancer may not be. The girls also wanted to understand how mammograms save lives.
One of the greatest joys of my job is teaching because it speaks to my heart. I believe that patients will do better with their treatments if they understand more of the details and science behind breast cancer treatments. I believe when patients take an active role in determining their treatment they will do better. So, before any treatments are given, I start out by educating all of my patients. As a physician, my academic degree is MD, from the Latin Medicinae Doctor meaning “Teacher of Medicine.” Not only is it my joy to teach but it is also my professional obligation.
Whether teaching my patients or high school students, my life is filled with purpose and meaning. God has gifted me with the love of teaching, the touch of healing and the skill of curing.
I would like to thank Knoxville Catholic High School and their students for inviting me and my wife to teach about breast cancer. I hope we were able to encourage a mom to get a mammogram or make a child’s experience with their mother’s cancer a little bit less scary.
Teaching promises a future, healing brings tomorrow and mammograms save lives.