Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book was published in 2010 and has been made into a 6 hour documentary produced by Ken Burns. It about the history of cancer, recent developments, and prospects for the future of one of the most complicated and vexing diseases that has confronted the human race. It aired beginning Monday night March 30th, 2015 on PBS.
A startling fact is that one in two men and one and three women will be confronted with cancer in their lives. The two reasons for this are (1) that we live longer and cancer is more likely to occur and (2) that we are impacted by environmental toxins and life style choices… such as smoking. There will be many stories included and the future does appear to be promising through highly technical and innovative targeted drugs specifically designed to respond to an identified defect within the genetics of a particular patient’s cancer cells.
While the prospects for a future with many new and wonderful treatments is good, the time horizon for “cures” will be long for many kinds of cancer. “Cures” is in quotations because oncologists in many cases are not sure at this point whether a particular response is a cure or remission. It’s going to take time.
So we must always be vigilant as to whether hope is obscuring the greater probability that treatment will not extend life and may severely compromise the quality of our life. There is no magic formula for discerning when it is the right to switch to hospice care. Hope can be a powerful drug for good on the one hand, and on the other, an aid to embracing denial. Hope can afflict your thinking, your family’s wishes for your survival and recovery, and your doctor’s thinking as well.
What’s the message in all this?
Be vigilant so you don’t lose your voice about your end of life care!
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