I don’t know anyone who thinks that we’re doing enough to eradicate cancer. I don’t know anyone who even thinks we’re going about it the right way. Billions of dollars in awareness campaigns, research funding, support services…and we often appear to be no closer to a cure, let alone than we were 50 years ago. Have treatments improved? Yes. Do we better address the multitude of cancer side-effects? Sure. But a cure?
I’m reading Sid Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. In it he addresses the barbaric evolution of Halsted’s “radical” mastectomy. As Mukherjee puts it, Halsted “…chiseled away at cancer with larger and more disfiguring surgeries, all in the hopes that cutting more would mean curing more.” He operated on the belief that if he cut away enough of the body he would eventually eliminate the risk of local recurrence. In fact, he and his students went so far as to remove not only breast tissue but axillary nodes, the chest wall, ribs, collar bones and more.
Even in today’s world of randomized clinical trials, we fall back on the “slash, poison and burn” array of treatment options. It makes me wonder what, of today’s “standard” treatments, will be seen as cruel and barbaric..perhaps even senseless…in the not too distant future.