Dr. Don S Dizon is a medical oncologist who specialized in OBGYN and sexual health. He encourages oncologists to open the door to conversation about sexual health with cancer patients, as nowadays medical providers don’t usually mention disturbance of sexual life as an issue post-cancer treatment.
Oncology Procedures Alter Sexual Health
Everything in oncology, from surgery to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, affects a man and woman’s sexual health. From sexual desire and sense of being desired to sexual intimacy, touch, sensuality and satisfaction, all can bear negative impacts. However, most people suffer in isolation. They don’t have the language to talk about this issue and, also, doctors don’t provide them permission to discuss it with them. Dr. Dizon goes around the world highlighting the need to strike the conversation.
In 1995, Dr. Dizon graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. In 1998, he completed his residency in internal medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. Finally, in 2001, he completed his fellowship in medical oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, where he also served as a Clinical Assistant. His journey with oncology started here and decided to never stop!
Dr. Dizon began his academic career in 2010 when he served as Associate Professor of OB-GYN and Medicine at Brown University, Rhode Island. Being an oncologist, he served as Co-director at the Center for Sexuality, Intimacy and Fertility, and as Director of Medical Oncology at Woman & Infants Hospital, Rhode Island. Later, in 2017, he founded the Oncology Sexual Health Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he served as Clinical Co-director of Gynecologic Oncology. Currently, Dr. Dizon is the Professor of Medicine and Professor of Surgery at Alpert Medical School, Rhode Island. He is also the Director of Medical Oncology at Rhode Island Hospital and Director of The Pelvic Malignancies Program, Lifespan Cancer Institute.
Dr. Don S Dizon is from a Catholic island in the South Pacific Ocean. He was inclined to religious affairs. He recalls priests and nuns talking about vocation. Religion insists on doing something exemplary in life, especially for other people. Thus, the driving motivation to become a doctor began with religion and bloomed from some medicine-based TV series. The series didn’t glamorise medical life nor portray it as beautiful, yet Dr. Dizon fell for medicine. He knew he had to do medicine! The realisation hit quite early. He considers himself quite fortunate to have become a physician. Later, he chose oncology and, to this date, he continues achieving one after another milestone, marking himself as an important representative of OB-GYN oncology.
As a medical student and resident, pertaining to oncology, you should learn the drugs that specifically affect a woman’s vulvar and vaginal health thus affecting sexual function. When you mention drugs to treat hormone-positive cancers, the second thing you should mention is the side effects. They include muscle and joint pain, vaginal dryness, vulvar itching, and sexual problems. If you don’t mention them as a part of your routine coverage, then patients will not know this drug is hurting them. They won’t know it’s common and manageable. They will suffer in isolation, masking an image of a healthy mental and physical state.
According to the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC), survivor oncology is the prevention and management of adverse effects of cancer and its treatment. Dr. Dizon developed expertise in treating patients who are interested in regaining their sexuality and sex life. Although the world is shifting to newer and more advanced demands, the demands of cancer patients remain constant. They need treatment and management of post-treatment adverse effects. The key to Dr. Dizon’s resilience is to work outside anti-cancer therapy after cancer.
Oncology Challenge: Cancer in Transgender Population
This is a basic understanding that the origin and presentation of cancer differ in males and females. However, when cancer presents in the transgender population, the picture changes entirely. Medical oncology struggles in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer in transgender patients. In reality, there is no large-scale database in the US about the sex and gender of cancer patients.
Workplace Morals & Manners
Dealing with stress and crises in oncology is overwhelming and exhausting. After a long day at work, losing temper and picking up an argument is a day-to-day event. In such sensitive moments, the best is to deal morally. Giving equal respect to all colleagues irrespective of rank and authority confirms your professional standard of morals. We all learn with time and it is never too late to go back and humbly say ‘sorry’.
TikTok Influence: @drdonsdizon
Dr. Don S Dizon is a founding member of Collaboration for Outcomes using Social Media in Oncology. Here is what he says about the power of social media, especially TikTok!
Future Physicians for Change
Dr. Don S Dizon continues helping cancer survivors reclaim their sexuality. Approaching survivors, he comes across toxic thoughts. He hears “I am lucky to still be alive” quite often. It is true, as it minimizes the suffering, but taking them back to real positivity and recognizing their sexual image with desires and intimacy is the real challenge.