McConnor's Corner
The American Killer: Cancer
By Sean McConnor
Oct 1, 2002 - 5:03:00 PM

LOS ANGELES — As promised in my last column, I told you that I would interview a cancer doctor about the hideous disease that killed 553,091 people in the United States in the year 2000.

I chose as the subject of my interview, Dr. Eric Prommer, Director of the Cancer Center for the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. Dr. Prommer is board certified in four different specialities and is the former Cancer Center Director for White Memorial Hospital near Downtown Los Angeles. He is also a practicing hematologist-oncologist and attending physician at the VA WLA Medical Center and the VA Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center.(Whee, what a background).

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Jenna Skarzenski / Canyon News
I caught up with Dr. Prommer, a bespectacled, blond-haired-man in his early forties, as he prepared for his Wednesday clinic at the VA's West Los Angeles facility. Sometimes his patient load ranges and he sees up to 40 patients in one afternoon. As a result, they sometimes don't arrive home until 7:00 p.m. in the evening. Part of the reason, other than the number of patients, is the fact that they give each patient plenty of clinic time.

Naturally, I had to cut to the chase because time was precious, so I asked him about his patients. He said that the key to treating cancer is early detection. Don't wait for symptoms to appear. Get check-ups regularly, modify your lifestyle by eating more vegetables, and stop smoking.

In that vain (pun intended), Dr. Prommer said that every day cancer is more treatable and curable. There is research going on and new drugs coming out all the time. As a result, many types of cancer are now treatable and now curable such as Hodgkins Disease, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, chronic leukemia, skin and testicular cancer. Unfortunately, some of the nasty cancers such as brain cancer remain to do their damage to the body.

Dr. Prommer emphasized again the necessity to stop smoking. Smoking is the catalyst for a number of diseases such as cancer. He refused to be negative in listing and discussing of some cancers because he wants to give people hope. He, to his credit, has been witnessed doing so at the VA.

Hope is what I, too, want to give my readers. Cancer when detected early and treated can be controlled. I am sorry to report to you, dear readers, that I have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (cancer) on one of my ears. Surgery will be required to remove it. Left unattended, I understand, the cancer can eat away my ear. I guess my disease is a result of being a Southern Californian who has enjoyed the out-of-doors.

Now, you reader, can spare yourself skin cancer by monitoring moles and spots on your skin. Report any unusual and darkening spots to your physician or dermatologist. Don't wait until surgery is required.

The dermatologist tells me that plastic surgery may be required on my ear after my cancer surgery. Don't worry. I have not requested that the surgeon fashion my ear into a Vulcan's like Mr. Spock. I will still be the same old Sean.


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