BCM gynecologist's media comment saves one woman's life

April 1, 2011

Patient Rose Faye Soopan and Dr. Concepcion Diaz-Arrastia
Patient, Rose Faye Soopan and Dr. Concepcion Diaz-Arrastia

With her busy clinical schedule, it's hard for Baylor gynecologic oncologist Dr. Concepcion Diaz-Arrastia to respond to all of the hundreds of e-mails and calls she receives daily – especially when it comes to media interview requests.

But several months ago, she had a couple of minutes to respond to an e-mail inquiry from ABC News to comment for a health story about "things women shouldn't ignore," and her comments ended up making a big difference in one woman's life.

"I get these interview requests often and normally do not have time to respond, but I remember this e-mail came through and I had a couple of minutes. So, I sent back a short sentence – 'postmenopausal women should never ignore bleeding' – and went back to my day," said Diaz-Arrastia. "It wasn't long after that a Pasadena woman came to see me. She had seen the ABC News story, was prompted to see her primary care doctor for abnormal bleeding she was having and ultimately found out she had early stage endometrial cancer."

Double life saver

Postmenopausal bleeding is a sign of endometrial cancer, a cancer that has no effective screening methods.

Fortunately for the patient, Rose Faye Soopan, the cancer was caught at such an early stage that she has been cured with surgery. Her primary care doctor gave her a choice for follow-up care at several medical center facilities, including BCM. Without hesitation, Sooppan chose BCM and Dr. Diaz-Arrastia.

After her surgery, "Faye came into my clinic and said 'you saved my life twice. First the news story and second with the hysterectomy,'" said Diaz-Arrastia. "Just a short e-mail response and I saved her life. I couldn't believe it."

"I would have just ignored the bleeding," said Sooppan, 65. "When I saw the ABC News story, I could not get to the doctor fast enough. Whatever you all are doing (to educate the public), keep doing it."

Prior to this experience, Diaz-Arrastia said she was unsure of the value of making time to speak with the media. "It's hard to fit these interviews in with everything else and sometimes they can take up a lot of time," said Diaz-Arrastia. "In the future, I'll make these more of a priority and if I can assist, I will."

Media requests

The BCM Office of Communications serves as the primary contact for all members of the media seeking information about the College, or who wish to interview faculty/staff experts. On average, the office receives about 25 interview requests a week from media representatives across the world for experts on a variety of topics related to patient care and research, as well as administrative issues.

When there is breaking health news, that office receives media calls in high volumes and rapidly. For example, during the H1N1 outbreak, the office received 10-15 calls a day from radio, print and online media across the world.

Participation from faculty/staff with media requests is critical to assisting the Office of Communications' efforts to increase public health education, as well as raise awareness about BCM people and its programs.

Communications' staff reviews each interview request (for potential problem/controversial issues) carefully before a faculty/staff is encouraged to speak with a member of the media.