How An Oncologist Faced the Reality of his Own Cancer Diagnosis

For 40 years, Dr. Adan Rios, has cared for patients diagnosed with cancer during what is surely one of the most difficult experiences of their lives. Dr. Rios however, never imagined his career specialty and personal life would collide. In August 2016, the cause of swelling in the left side of his neck proved to be devastating. He was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer.

“It’s never business as usual after a diagnosis like this. It changes your outlook on life,” said Dr. Rios, medical oncologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

When the Physician Becomes  the Patient

From September to October 2016, Dr. Rios underwent several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. During that time Dr. Rios said there were many anxiety-filled moments, but also periods of reassuring clarity about the journey ahead.

“At times when you are put in front of what’s coming, you can almost come to a decision, where you may say, ‘No, I don’t want to go through this,’ and then your family, your children, your universe compel you to go through with the therapy,“ Dr. Rios said.

Dr. Rios says his battle to beat cancer was made easier knowing that he was being treated and cared for by colleagues he worked alongside every day.

“The benefits of empathy and caring for your colleagues are always very important. There is a whole series of people who are involved in health care, and while they are not physicians, they are essential components who are absolutely dedicated to your wellbeing,” added Dr. Rios.

A Changed Perspective on Life

It has been more than a year since Dr. Rios was diagnosed with cancer. His tumor is in remission and he’s back practicing medicine, which is something he loves. As a cancer survivor he does not shy away from the opportunity to express how his journey has changed him and his perspective on life.

“A diagnosis like this changes your management of time and, to a certain extent, it modifies your priorities. I try to spend more time with my family. I spend less time watching television and more time talking to my loved ones. There have been changes that appear superficial, but at the end of the day they are actually pretty big changes because they really modify my quality of life for the good,” Dr. Rios said.

Dr. Rios continues to live life with a shifted focus and is appreciative of the compassion and skill of his entire care team.

“I am impressed by the Memorial Hermann experience. I feel very proud that I belong to this System. Not to say that I was not proud before, but I feel even more proud now because I have this cancer journey to reflect on, not only as a physician, but also from my personal experience. It’s a wonderful System and my wife, children, family and I will always be grateful for what was done for me during those difficult and trying times,” said Dr. Rios.

A multidisciplinary team of professionals cared for and treated Dr. Rios. Watch this video to learn more about his journey from doctor to patient.


  1. I have so much and love and respect for Dr. Rios. His laugh is infectious and his smile is a ray of sunshine. His big heart and compassion is reflected in how he cares for his patients and how he interacts with everyone encounters. God has a purpose in each one of our lives and uses his children, like Dr. Rios to touch and bless the lives of others. Dr. Rios has been blessed with the gift to practice oncology medicine to treat those affected by cancer. Even though Dr. Rios was faced with an illness in the field that he has treated for years, God put in him in a place where his faith was tested. Dr. Rios is a man of faith and knows the God he serves. I could not be more happier for Dr. Rios and his successful journey and I know God has said job well done my son. Peace, Love, and Blessings Dr. Rios 🙂

  2. Hi, Dr. Rios!
    So nice to read about you and hear that you’re doing well!
    I remember you from my time at MDAH in Immunology.
    I’m sending continued thoughts and prayers your way.
    I’ve migrated up to The Woodlands since then..

    Wishing you every blessing!

  3. I am a Memorial Hermann Pharmacist and often on the weekend our Pharmacist Team might be processing an order written by Dr Rios. Dr Rios goes above and beyond for his patients and the Organization. His passion for his work and profession is outstanding. Dr Rios called the pharmacy one weekend to discussed one of his patient and in the same breath he told me that he was diagnosed with cancer and on that road of recovery. He is so special to all of us. Words cannot express how sad I was to hear but thankful to God of his recovery and healing.

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