Dana Deighton

Esophageal Cancer Survivor
Patient Advocate

Dana Deighton, an esophageal cancer survivor, shares her diagnostic odyssey of false starts and life-threatening detours.

Deighton had always been healthy—she didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and exercised every day. Then came a joint pain that wouldn’t go away, visits to numerous doctors, a series of misdiagnoses, invasive tests, and growing symptoms. The correct diagnosis of stage 4 esophageal cancer “was not the diagnosis anyone wants.” But she refused to accept physicians’ recommendations for palliative care as a solution.

She describes her persistent advocacy to convince doctors to consider her as an individual different from expectations and generalizations. She asked the hard questions and had the hard discussions, resulting in an outcome better than expected.

She recommends physicians and patients do the homework, energetically collaborate and consider the individual patient in the quest for a solution. “Don’t be a passive patient.”

Dana Deighton works for the online patient community provider Inspire.com that helps connect patients with others experiencing the same disease, for a wide variety of diseases and over 4 million members.  She also serves as an Executive Board Member of the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN), is a patient representative on the Locally Advanced Esophageal Cancer Guideline Panel for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), a member of NCI Patient Advocate Steering Committee and NCI Esophago-Gastric Task Force and serves on the Esophageal and Stomach Cancer Project Patient Advisory Committee, a project led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She lives outside of Alexandria with her husband and three teenagers.


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