Friday, March 22, 2013

Cancer Research and Treatment

Recently I finished reading The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It took me a long time to finish because it is a long book and because it contains a huge amount of information. I took away several things from the book: 

  1. Cancer researchers are human beings just like the rest of us. Cancer research, therefore, is influenced by personal egos and politics, just like everything else people do.
  2. Cancer researchers spent long periods of time barking up lots of wrong trees.
  3. Cancer patients have to thank AIDS patients--specifically ACT UP--for better access to experimental drugs and insurance coverage for clinical trials. ACT UP did a lot of protesting and changed the way that drugs and insurance were regulated by the government. Their courage and persistence has created more options for cancer patients as well as AIDS patients.
  4. The US government has pumped huge amounts of money and legitimacy into cancer research. I hope it continues to do so.
  5. Cancer is us. Cancer is written in our genes. 
  6. Prevention is key. That means cancer screening (mammograms, PAP smears, colonoscopies, et cetera) is a gift. Not a chore! That also means avoiding the carcinogens which we can avoid in our work places, our food, our homes is more important than we currently acknowledge.
  7. I am so lucky to be alive at this time because of the treatments available to me now. Otherwise I probably would have died a year or two after my diagnosis.

I have already returned the book to the library, so I cannot share any quotes, but I found Mukherjee's understanding of what cancer patients experience to be deep and his means of expressing that experience to be both sympathetic and poetic. His scientific/medical explanations are careful and thorough. I learned a lot about cancer from reading the book.

I have just started The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis. I'll share my what I learn from that book as well.

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