Doctor’s Note

Doctor: Dr. Ziad Skaff
Specialty: Hematology & Oncology

Marked by the death of his grandfather to small cell lung cancer, Dr. Ziad Skaff entered medicine with a promise to present his patients with every treatment option available. Humbled by cancer’s ability to shift plans and perspectives, the Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated hematologist/oncologist shares advice for making the most of each day.

Dr. Ziad Skaff

I wish my patients knew:
“More about their disease. By the time they reach me, they’re frightened and carrying a huge burden. Once I address their fears and explain their situation, an immense relief is felt across the room.”

During this season of sun worship:
“Sunscreen like crazy. Your biggest risk for melanoma is during your childhood years. There’s a cumulative risk from there.”

To live better every day:
“Invest in your health. Sedentariness is the new smoking, the killer of this era. Engage in physical activity, eat healthy and stay up on your preventive doctor’s visits. If you comply with these guidelines and have to fight cancer, your chances at treatment success have been proven to be much higher.”

To keep cancer in check:
“First, avoid smoking, which leads to more than just lung cancer—it also causes breast, bladder and quite a few other cancers. Second, abide by screening recommendations. If the government is willing to pay for these screenings, there has to be science that these procedures save lives. Third, avoid denial. I’ve seen cases obviously progress to advanced stages, while patients insist that, ‘This can’t happen to me.’”

A valuable patient resource is:
“The American Cancer Society website, which has an official page for every type of cancer. I never stop a patient from reading about their disease online, but I do ask them to bring their readings to me so we can interpret them together.”

And remember:
“Cancer is a word, not a sentence. The majority of people with cancer don’t die from the disease. The tremendous difference oncologists can make is why we do this job.”

Photograph (Dr. Skaff) by Maggie Wilcox