We have 8 bitter facts about cancer. It is the role of healthcare workers to educate the public on cancer. As one of them, here is my take:
- Cancer is not a single disease. Practically any organ in the body can be afflicted by one or more types of cancer. Each cancer has its unique characteristics, and response to treatment.
- Early diagnosis is ONLY possible and meaningful in certain cancers. Some cancers don’t have signs and symptoms that point to their diagnoses, and this remains the challenge of our lifetime.
- Cancer screening is only possible for a few screenable cancers. Chief among them is cervical cancer, where cells of the cervix undergo slow changes to become cancerous and can be diagnosed years before the real disease strikes. On the other hand, it is impossible to screen patients for blood cancers.
- I believe (caption I, because this is an opinion) that cancer prevalence hasn’t risen significantly in the last 2 decades. What has improved is diagnosis. People have always died, but in the past, the cause of death was never clear.
- Treatment of cancer is a challenge the world over. It has claimed great world personalities like Mcain, Steve Jobs among others.
- At certain times, treatment of cancer can lead to death, earlier than letting nature take its course.
- Even as we strive to treat cancer, we should note that eventually, most cancer patients (especially those not amenable to complete surgical excision) die.
- We should focus on enabling people to die with dignity and pain free. This should be an important goal, just like striving to clear cancer from the body, which is often impossible.