The Truth About Cancer: No "Mission Accomplished!"
I have posted on this blog on several occasions threads that deal with the ethics involved with drug research and the role of patients as subjects in these experiments. Studies which deal with the safety and efficacy of drugs and other treatments include a number of chronic diseases including heart and other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and rheumatologic disorders as examples. These diseases produce long term degrees of disability, complications which can lead to death. Diseases for which studies are performed include diseases where death is an ever-present consideration even in the shorter term—such as cancer. With no “cure” for cancers in general nor even certainty of a cure for the patient who has specific types of cancer, there is great motivation for doctors to recommend and patients to accept to participate as a subject in all sorts of research studies, one of which, could very well be the therapeutic answer to the patient’s cancer.
But.. does the patient and the public in general really understand, in a truly realistic sense, “cancer”? What is the benefit of screening for cancer? If the screening is positive, what does that mean in terms of the reliability of the diagnosis and the individual patient’s value of further workup and , if confirmed, subsequent treatment? There is so much misinformation and distortion of reality that has been presented to the public since when in 1971 President Nixon declared the “War on Cancer” that to many in the public, regarding subjects of cancer diagnosis and treatment, there is almost a modern-day “Mission Accomplished!” attitude. (Read the opinion “Opinion: Spinning the Losing War on Cancer” by Samuel S. Epstein and Quentin D. Young regarding the history of the “war”)
What is needed is to present to the public the perspective which most thoughtful oncologists are aware that cancer is still for the individual patient a disease where the “war” is not yet won and the “mission” is still facing many problems and uncertainties. Death from cancer is still not fully out of the picture for many types of cancer. And the concept of a “cure” should be replaced by “delay of death”.
PBS has produced a great TV program that I think presents a clear and realistic view of cancer, treatment research, cancer treatment itself and outcomes. The program is part of the “Take One Step” series and is called “The Truth About Cancer”.At the PBS website you will find the transcript of the 90 minute program and you can watch the program on-line. I think this is one documentary that everyone should watch. ..Maurice.