Cancer is possibly one of the oldest, if not the oldest disease, which has baffled us, literally, for thousands of years.
In the Nubian Museum (at Aswan, Eqypt) a human skull is on exhibit, which has approximately a rupee size hole in it. Edge of this hole is smooth indicating that the wound had healed, i.e., the person or the patient survived the brain surgery, obviously for tumor. This skull has been updated to the bronze period. Recent examination of the mummy of Egypt’s Queen Pharaoh Hatshepsut (died in 1458 BC) indicated that she possibly had cancer.
The “Father of Medicine” Hippocrates (460 BC – 370 BC) studied this disease (Cancer) in detail and used Greek terms ‘Carcinors’ and ‘Carcinoma’. Later the Roman doctor, Calcus (28 BC – 50 AD) Translated “carcinos’ into the Latin word ‘Cancer or crab’ as at times the spread of disease looked like it.
Any of us, who did not have a chance to personally interact with a cancer patient or who unfortunately himself has not suffered the disease, sorry to say, has only half – baked information and idea or practically no concept about the dimensions of this disease. As a matter of fact, their opinion and advice, particularly from the “Sociallites” could be really dangerous.
But we are trying to become more health conscious. So what should laypersons like me do? Ask a doctor? Well one will be lucky to find a doctor who will overlook the queue of patients outside his chamber and explain the board aspects of cancer. He, at best, may say, “Cancer is not just one disease, but a large group of almost hundred diseases. The two main characteristics of cancer, are the un controlled growth of the cells in the human body and the ability of these cells to migrate from the original site and spread to distant sites. If the spread is not controlled, cancer can result in death.” Well this was not very clear to me! Is it to you?
I then approached one of my well-read friends. His reaction was “It can be called successive mutation of cells. It is infectious and also hereditary to some extent. It is a killer disease”. I feel, I had reached the summit in the Everest of Confusion.
While dealing with cancer patients certain points should not be lost sight of. Firstly the day we all shall have to die – though it hardly ever is in our mental horizon. So what is the different between death due to cancer or any other ailment? Death from cancer is very painful? New age painkillers can effectively tackle the pain. Physical handicap or depending on others for the daily chores? In contrast would you prefer lying on bed, 7/8 months or more, with total physical paralysis caused by cerebral stroke? Secondly, cancer or no cancer, will any of us accept a boon to live for 200 years? So what actually is this fuss about death? Thirdly, we go to a doctor for treatment and “cure” but what is “cure”? If you ask me I shall say, “To go back to normal life. It’s immaterial if the disease is there or not” (Example: high BP, diabetes etc. They are all killer diseases!) Today, medical science ensures that a cancer patient leads a normal life for at least a reasonable period.
This booklet has been prepared with the objective of being able to say (with due respect To John Gunther) “Cancer be Not Proud”. It is meant for laymen like you and me to have a birds eye view of some aspects of the killer disease (?) called cancer. It also tries to dispel many myths (some of them almost pernicious) associated with this disease.
He had cancer in 1989)
Editor CACI Newsletter
(He had cancer in 1989)