Empowering Women, Fighting Cancer: Current Perspectives

Thursday evening’s event started around 6 p.m. on June 20th. Specialists in thyroid cancers, breast cancers, and gynecologic cancers, came together in a panel discussion to educate the public on what is happening in the clinic at Providence, Saint John’s Health Center (innovation and approaches) and what’s new on the horizon at Saint John’s Cancer Institute (research and clinical trials). Our specialist answered questions from the executive director of cancer services for both Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica and the Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, California, Dr. Ora Gordon, Professor of Genetics, which was then followed by an audience Q&A session.

“My favorite thing to tell someone who sees me is that they don’t need surgery; not all cancers need surgery.”

– Melanie Goldfarb, MD

What is the ‘less is more approach’ in cancer?

The event started with Dr. Goldfarb (thyroid surgeon and specialist) discussing a novel idea in the management of cancer patients called the “less is more approach.” Less surgery may lead to less medication and complications, and often equate to better outcomes. This is accomplished through research and dedicated physicians—providers who listen to their patients’ concerns and advocate for establishing new practices through proven medical achievements.

Medical achievements discovered through clinical trials and research have paved the way to elevated standards of care, which includes innovative surgical techniques, improvements in technology, more targeted medicine, and a multidisciplinary care approach. This process improves access to life-saving medicine and quality of life, reduces the surgical burden to the patient and health systems, and refocuses care on life after cancer. With dedicated physicians in the clinic (Saint John’s Health Center) who also conduct and participate in clinical trials (Saint John’s Cancer Institute), our practitioners understand cancer management and women’s health issues best. They proactivley avoid “the whole kitchen sink” approach to treat cancer, as Dr. Janie Grumley often says, referring to the days when physicians often over-treated to stop cancer growth despite the reprecussions it could bring. Those days are gone.

We have come a long way in cancer care, minimizing over- and undertreatment due to the advent of precision medicine. Teams of specialists from different disciplines are also working better together, curating individualized treatment plans leveraging a shared concesus approach. From research and the development of innovative technologies to better outcomes for patients, teams of dedicated specialists have paved the way in the management of cancer.

“Women over the age of 50 have a better survival if they save their breast,” says Dr. Grumley on the surgical management of breast cancer patients who want full mastectomies. “It’s much like thyroid, sometimes less is more,” she adds.

Not much more can be known about cancer without teams of specialists doing two things, coordinating care alongside efforts to do patient-centered research together. With this many specialists in women’s health under one roof, and with the resources that are available to them, this community has access to a viable life-saving resource: cutting-edge research, precision medicine, and dedicated physicians.

“When you get to a certain age of maturity, you’ve outrun a certain amount of risk, and then you face forward to a different kind of risk and so we want to modify and individualize at every point in someone’s life what they need. Sometimes it’s an increase in screening, and sometimes it’s a diminution in screening.”

– Ora Gordon, MD

The message of the women’s educational event was quite clear, women physicians understand women’s health, and they know what questions to ask.

As one can see in the video below, the banter between these specialists suggests they enjoy working together and do not mind disagreeing. With Dr. Grumley espousing, “there is no one diet” to prevent cancer, to Dr. Gordon denouncing hot dogs as quite preventative, it was hands-down all the more enlivened in this educational event. “Well, I think a category ‘one’ carcinogen like a hot dog you can avoid all together,” she suggests, as all four specialists laugh in unison from hearing the comparison of cancer to weather conditions, and then within that, Dr. Gordon changed the use of the word, “one,” to enhance a figure of speech. It was like they were playing an imaginary game of toss the “one,” and I am not sure which one to smile more at, the metaphor that a hot dog is akin to a hurricane, or a literal change in meaning that prescribes to a secret world of sarcasm which they share.

Specialists in oncology discuss women’s health at Sain John’s

Ora Gordon, MD, Melanie Goldfarb, MD, Janie Grumley MD, Hyo Park, MD, and Parvin Peddi, MD, offer an hour-long panel discussion on women’s health.

Please watch the full-length video and visit Saint John’s Cancer Institute’s YouTube Channel: Empowering Women, Fighting Cancer: Current Perspectives Full-length Video and subscribe to our channel to watch more content on what’s new in cancer research (or to see our specialists, and patient testimonials).


Melanie Goldfarb, MD, MSc, FACS, FACE Janie Grumley, MD, FACS Parvin Peddi, MD Hyo K. Park, MD
Melanie Goldfarb, MD, MSc, FACS, FACE, Thyroid Surgical Oncologist and Director, Center for Endocrine Tumors and Disorders
Janie Grumley, MD, FACS, Breast Surgical Oncologist and Director, Comprehensive Breast Program, Margie Petersen Breast Center
Parvin Peddi, MD, Associate Professor of Medical Oncology and Director, Breast Medical Oncology Margie Petersen Breast Center
Hyo K. Park, MD, Gynecologic Surgical Oncologist Women’s Health and Wellness Institute, Saint John’s Health Center



The Saint John’s Foundation will be facilitating a series of educational events through-out the year, highlighting research, best practices, trends in health care, and providers. Stay tuned for more!

About the Author

Eleanor Zeri