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Being a Team Player

No matter what specialty a doctor practices, when treating a cancer patient, every caregiver must be on the same team.

I’m an orthopedic surgeon. Imagine a woman coming to me complaining of pain in her arm. Examining her, listening to the symptoms she presents, and being unaware of the fact that she is undergoing chemotherapy, I may approach her condition as an isolated event and recommend physical therapy. But if she is wise enough to inform me that she’s also fighting a malignancy, the way I process her information changes significantly.

Open communication between you and your medical team regarding chemotherapy treatment is crucial if you are to receive optimal care. In the scenario I just described, upon learning she’s dealing with cancer I would immediately send this patient for x-rays and/or an MRI scan to ensure the disease has not spread. Once metastasis has been ruled out, an appropriate course of treatment can be implemented in partnership with her oncology team.

The pain she’s experiencing may be a side effect of one of her anti-cancer medications. Conferring with her oncologist, we may be able to identify ways to reduce or eliminate that discomfort. Chemo may also reveal an underlying condition that the patient never before noticed prior to treatment. For instance, a borderline diabetic may manifest full blown symptoms after chemo begins. An aching arm may inspire carrying groceries on only one side, causing the lower back to hurt. Examining that pain, we may discover a disc problem, and treat it accordingly.

Some of the ordinary aches and pains of life become magnified during cancer treatment. While it’s likely that they are not related to this disease, it’s vitally important to tell any doctor you visit that you are under an oncologist’s care, and make sure that all of your caregivers are working together.

As doctors, our goal is to lead our patients to health while providing them with comfort and relief from the symptoms affecting their quality of life. While we may have a variety of answers to offer for a particular situation, we depend on our patients to help us formulate the right questions.

Be completely upfront and clear about what you are feeling and what you are facing. You’ll empower yourself and your doctors to achieve the best results possible – and make yours a winning team!

About Dr. Torpey:
Dr. Torpey was raised in Maryland and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wake Forest University. He received his M.D. from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. He completed five years of orthopedic surgery training including clinical training at Monmouth Medical Center, UMDNJ-Camden, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Mount Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Torpey then went on to complete a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Torpey has special interest in sports-related injuries, upper extremity, total joint replacements and shoulder and knee reconstructive surgeries.
He serves as one of the orthopedic team physicians for Monmouth University, Georgian Court University and many local public and private high schools. He belongs to many medical societies including the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery. He also serves as a Clinical and Academic Instructor of Orthopedics at Monmouth Medical Center.

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