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Wither, Whether, or Whither Surgical Oncology

Benjamin F. Rush Jr, MD
Arch Surg. 1991;126(3):302-303. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1991.01410270042007.
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According to Webster, the verb wither indicates that something has become dry and sapless or has lost vitality, force, or freshness. Is surgical oncology withering? One can find evidence that this might be so. The American Board of Surgery has recently denied a Certificate of Additional Competency in Surgical Oncology. After a period of growth, the membership of our society has plateaued in the last 2 to 3 years, with the number of members entering barely balancing the number superannuated because of age. The care of the cancer patient seems in many instances to have become more and more fragmented. I encountered a patient the other day at my own hospital who was under chemotherapeutic care by our Section of Medical Oncology for a lesion of the head and neck. The patient had a recurrent carcinoma that was obstructing his hypopharynx, and the Ear, Nose, and Throat Service was asked


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