Don’t Delay Care!

Even during the pandemic, addressing health care issues with your physician is of utmost importance.

  • Category
    Health, People
  • Written by
    Laura L. Watts
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

In early April, Joy Robertson—an Encino attorney and mother of three—began experiencing a sharp pain in her lower abdomen. She tried to ignore the discomfort, wanting to avoid a trip to the hospital during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. As the evening wore on, however, Joy’s pain level increased, and she asked her husband to take her to the emergency room.

A CT scan revealed a large mass on her right ovary and another small mass on her liver. Joy, age 54, was told to connect with a gynecologic oncologist as soon as possible. Her sister found Michael Manuel, MD, online, and Joy scheduled an appointment for the very next morning.

“I’m grateful for having Dr. Manuel see me through my cancer journey.”

“Dr. Manuel set the wheels in motion and held my hand every step of the way,” Joy shares. “He was honest, kind and informative, and I felt safe and confident in his expertise.”

Dr. Manuel, a gynecologic oncologist specializing in the treatment of women with reproductive tract cancers and complicated gynecologic surgical problems, ran further diagnostic tests while addressing Joy’s pain. The diagnosis was stage 1 ovarian cancer, and the pain stemmed from the mass, which had cut off blood supply to the area.

“I chose this work because of the satisfaction I receive in helping women through the challenges of dealing with cancer diagnoses and treatments,” shares Dr. Manuel, who has been practicing medicine since 2005 and joined the Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center staff in January. The doctor graduated with honors from the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, trained in obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and completed an oncology fellowship at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco.

“One of the reasons I chose this specialty is because of the inspiring work previous gynecologic oncologists performed at Cedars-Sinai,” he says. “Many of the specialists there inspired me to consider a career taking care of women with cancer, and I’m happy to be back working with my mentors.”

Soon after Dr. Manuel started working with Tarzana Medical Center at the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and drastically changed the way health care professionals treat patients. “Our practice had to adapt to using telephone and video visits to help keep our patients safe—especially cancer patients, who are known to have higher risks of complications from COVID-19,” he says.

“In meeting with patients during COVID-19, I think it is important to be honest about whatever illness they are facing and the risks of delaying treatment.”

While delaying some treatments was required during the early days of the shutdown, more recently doctors have been able to continue seeing patients safely with adherence to safety precautions. While feeling cautious and choosing to frequent only locations that are following safety protocols is wise, delaying medical care can create even more problems.

Stories like Joy’s highlight the importance of listening to one’s body and not postponing screenings or waiting to seek care—even when grappling with the challenges of living through a pandemic. “Most treatments for new problems should not be delayed,” says Dr. Manuel. “And regular screenings are important as well.”

After undergoing a full hysterectomy, Joy has recovered and is back to her career and enjoying time spent with her loved ones. “I’m grateful for having Dr. Manuel see me through my cancer journey,” she says.

Dr. Manuel recommends that everyone establish a strong relationship with their doctor and be honest about their concerns. In return, he believes physicians should listen to those concerns and offer clear communication about a course of action moving forward.

“In meeting with patients during COVID-19, I think it is important to be honest about whatever illness they are facing and the risks of delaying treatment,” he says. “In this way, we can have a clear and detailed discussion about medical options and the impact these treatments will likely have on their life.”

Dr. Manuel and the entire health care team at Tarzana Medical Center remain steadfast in their mission of service to the San Fernando Valley community, their commitment to safety and their pursuit of innovative ways to transform health care on behalf of each and every patient.


Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center
18321 Clark St., Tarzana |  818-881-0800  |  providence.org/tarzana
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