Dr. Ebony Hoskins On The 5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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The best way to support someone impacted by cancer is to check in on them and ask them what they need. Maybe bring them a meal a few days after treatment when they are fatigued. Also, asking if you can accompany them to any appointments is another great way to provide support.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. There is so much great information out there, but sometimes it is very difficult to filter out the noise. What causes cancer? Can it be prevented? How do you detect it? What are the odds of survival today? What are the different forms of cancer? What are the best treatments? And what is the best way to support someone impacted by cancer?

In this interview series called, “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer” we are talking to experts about cancer such as oncologists, researchers, and medical directors to address these questions. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ebony Hoskins.

Ebony Hoskins, MD, is a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Dr. Hoskins sees women for gynecological malignancies, which include the treatment of endometrial, ovarian, vulva, and cervical cancers; treating women with complex gynecological surgical issues; and minimally invasive surgical options for morbidly obese women. Dr. Hoskins always considers the use of robotic surgery because of the benefits this technique offers patients — quicker recovery time, no to minimal hospital stay, and less postoperative pain, compared to traditional open surgical techniques.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

As a 3rd year medical student, I had the opportunity to rotate at one of the first comprehensive cancer centers in the country in the field of gynecologic oncology. I was thrilled to be exposed to a specialty that includes gynecologic cancer surgery, administration of chemotherapy and development of long-term relationships with patients. I knew that gynecologic oncology was the specialty for me!

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

In my role, I take care of a predominately black community that has decreased access to quality care which can result in medical care disparities. My patients motivate me daily to ensure I offer comprehensive, compassionate and quality care for all that step foot in my office.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am really excited about Move the Message, a national campaign initiated by the Foundation for Women’s Cancer that aims to increase awareness of gynecologic cancers and provide easy to access resources with a focus on historically marginalized communities.

This work is so important because we know education can lead to earlier diagnosis and better outcomes.

Also, these materials are free and easy to access at www.movethemessage.org.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of Cancer?

I am a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center who sees women for gynecological malignancies, which include the treatment of endometrial, ovarian, vulva, and cervical cancers. I treat women with complex gynecological surgical issues and minimally invasive surgical options. I have completed more than 600 malignant and complex benign gynecologic surgeries using the robotic surgery technique. I completed post-residency fellowship in gynecologic oncology at Magee Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Between residency and fellowship, I completed a research fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD studying molecular biology of ovarian cancer.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with some basic definitions so that we are all on the same page. What is exactly cancer?

Cancer is the growth of abnormal appearing and behaving cells that can invade organs and spread to distant organs.

What causes cancer?

Cancer occurs when our normal system of checks is off. For example, when cells in our body are reproducing sometimes our cells can make mistakes and in a normal situation it is corrected, but when it is not corrected it can cause cancer.

What is the difference between the different forms of cancer?

There are many different types of cancer and they are determined by the location of where the cancer originated. Cancers are also identified as hematologic or solid tumor. Hematologic cancers impact the blood cells as well as solid tumor cancers that involve any other organ or tissue.

I know that the next few questions are huge topics, but we’d love to hear your thoughts regardless.

How can cancer be prevented?

There are some cancers that can be prevented with routine screenings such as pap smears, mammograms, and colonoscopies. Additionally, vaccines like the HPV vaccine help prevent infection from HPV which can lead to many cancers such as cervical or vaginal cancer. It is also very important to be in tune with your body and to see a doctor if you feel something is abnormal.

How can one detect the main forms of cancer?

Cancer is usually detected by different types of imaging, but other tests and symptoms are also taken into consideration The exact tests are determined by the location of the cancer and what the doctor feels is best.

Cancer used to almost be a death sentence, but it seems that it has changed today. What are the odds of surviving cancer today?

It all depends on the patient’s stage and type of cancer. In gynecologic oncology, we now have newer medicines at our disposal that extend overall survival in certain cancers, but some are still hard to treat, which is why early detection is so important.

Can you share some of the new cutting-edge treatments for cancer that have recently emerged?

In the gynecologic oncology space, there haven’t been as many advancements as in other types of cancer until recently. For endometrial cancer, LENVIMA and KEYTRUDA as a second line treatment are new options.

That said, I am excited about a lot of research using next generation sequencing methods to help target potential treatment for gynecologic cancers.

What new cancer treatment innovations are you most excited to see come to fruition in the near future?

I am excited about the potential of personalized medicine including treatments that are tailored to a patient’s tumor type.

Healing usually takes place between doctor visits. What have you found to be most beneficial to assist a patient to heal?

In order to promote healing, I find having a support system is critical including both emotional and spiritual support. It is also important to maintain a sense of normalcy, as much as possible.

From your experience, what are a few of the best ways to support a loved one, friend, or colleague who is impacted by cancer?

The best way to support someone impacted by cancer is to check in on them and ask them what they need. Maybe bring them a meal a few days after treatment when they are fatigued. Also, asking if you can accompany them to any appointments is another great way to provide support.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

The biggest misconception or myth is that a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. Cancer is not an immediate death sentence. The overwhelming number of my patients are alive, well and living their lives. According to the National Cancer Institute, as of January 2019, it is estimated that there are 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States.

Thank you so much for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what are your “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Cancer is not a death sentence. The overwhelming majority of patients that enter my office continue to live day after day, week after week, year after year.
  2. Obesity-related cancers such as endometrial cancer are on the rise. According to the American Cancer Society the incidence of endometrial cancer in 2021 is 66,570. This number is up from ~61,000 in 2017. Maintaining a healthy weight and adequate body movement is essential.
  3. Vaccines can prevent cancer. The HPV vaccine was initially developed to prevent precancerous cervical lesions and cervical cancer. The current 9-valent HPV vaccine can prevent cervical, vulva, anal, oropharyngeal and other head neck cancers and are readily available for female and male adolescents or young adults.
  4. Some cancers are caused by inherited genetic mutations. ~15–20% of ovarian cancer is due to an inherited mutation. All women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis are recommended to undergo a genetics assessment and likely genetics testing.
  5. Screening exams detect precancer or early cancers. Tests such as a pap for cervix, mammograms for breast and colonoscopy for colon can detect precancer or early cancer, which can improve survival rates in patients.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Through Move the Message, that is exactly what we are trying to do — create a movement from local communities outward that increases education of the five gynecologic cancers — cervical, ovarian, uterine/endometrial, vaginal, or vulvar. Education is so important because it is the first step in driving increased screenings, earlier diagnosis and therefore better outcomes.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

@DrEbonyHoskins

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor