Dr Ranjana Srivastava

Fulbright Scholar, Oncologist, Writer & Broadcaster

Welcome to my new website! It is still evolving so over the next few weeks, I will be migrating content from the old site to this new one. Its appearance may change from time to time as we work out the best way to display your favourite content. We will be posting articles and other media as they are published.

A 90-year-old woman has lain shrivelled and uncomfortable in her bed for forty hours, awaiting an operation. She has become heavily constipated as a result of an over-enthusiastic prescription of anti-diarrhoeal tablets and is now at risk of a bowel obstruction.
Cancer. It's the diagnosis no one wants to hear. Unfortunately though, these days most of us have known or will know someone who receives it. But what's next? With the diagnosis comes not only fear and uncertainty, but numerous questions, and a lot of unsolicited advice.
"How are you doing? It's nice to see you again." "OK," she replies, unusually tersely. "How was your daughter's wedding? I thought of you when the sun came out." "Yeah, it was good." And then, she burst into tears. "Is everything OK?"
During the final weeks of her life, all spent in an Indian hospital, my grandmother deteriorated peacefully, and gracefully, until she slipped into a coma and breathed her last. My 10-year-old self remembers a thing or two about this time. The hospital's egg curry, a much-loved north Indian dish, was amazing.
The new patient is an elderly, diabetic lady whose heart has been teetering on the edge of failure for the past two years. She likes saying that her husband's death broke her heart - it might have been so but at age 80, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension and a series of heart attacks have also taken their toll.
As a relatively young oncologist I saw a patient scheduled for surgery that morning. I didn't know him but he was on my list because he needed chemotherapy. The story seemed routine enough but when I walked in, I found that the relatively young man looked terrible.
In the years that we have known each other, she has never asked me an opinion about her brother's cancer, so when she finally asks if I will talk to him, I can't help but say yes.
"Just because I have cancer they think I am dumb." These were the last words a patient said to me and her lament has stayed with me ever since. Our conversation that morning had started ordinarily enough. She was in hospital with an infection that was proving more resolute than I'd thought.


Every day in Australia 360 people learn they have cancer. It goes without saying it's a very stressful time. Stress as a cause of cancer has not been convincingly proven but recently researchers have been looking at how stress drives the spread of an existing cancer from the original tumour.