A Lancet Oncology editorial

This week’s issue of The Lancet Oncology carries an interesting editorial entitled “Perceptions of cancer in society must change.” It’s well worth a read. And the full text is available on line.

The editorialist’s basic premise is that in many societies where cancer is now becoming more prevalent as we live longer and we can manage cancer better, cancer has become (or at least is becoming) a chronic condition:

Cancer is becoming an ever-expanding presence in our society, and we would benefit from reconciling its ability to scare and isolate with its ubiquity and survivability.

It is therefore no longer appropriate to be “hiding it under the blanket” as if it is something to be ashamed or frightened about. And it behooves the mainstream media to become much more willing to integrate the idea of a diagnosis of cancer or living with cancer into the day to day world of newspapers, magazines, television, movies, etc., so that the general public becomes more aware that many people live very successfully after a cancer diagnosis — but also that a cancer diagnosis can come with some other realities … like planning for the end of one’s life perhaps a little earlier than one had probably hoped for.

3 Responses

  1. Mike

    A very good article. I never attached a stigma to my cancer diagnosis or treatment.

    However, I am struggling through the end of life process. It can be quite difficult for a lot of reasons. Most people just do not want to understand the situation so they dismiss any conversation with something to the effect of “Well they are coming out with new treatments every day so keep positive …”. In addition there is, at least for me, an undercurrent of guilt for “losing the fight.” Did I do “everything”? Should I continue treatment? How much is enough? Can I really not try something else? (Even if the side effects of treatment may trump the quality of my remaining life.) So at least for me I keep an open mind toward possible treatment options (clinical trials) but with a premium on creating pockets of reasonably good periods of quality of life.

    My main point is that I agree with the author of the article that the mainstream media could do a better job of explaining the realities of living and in some cases dying with cancer. However, I am realistic enough to understand that at least in mainstream America it is not a subject most folks want to understand.


  2. Bill,

    Well said. I have seen how acceptance of an imminent end of life can suffuse life with purpose and meaning. It can allow one to move away from a sometimes narrowly-focused life characterized by mental suffering, fear, and worrying. It can actually be a very busy time if one wants it to be: dealing with financial arrangements, property, and wills; recording memoirs, messages, and videotapes; plunging into religious activities or social organizations; working with charities; looking for closure on relationships or accepting lack of closure; and bucket lists. It can also be a time of just being in the moment, and a cessation from activity.

    Perhaps there are some end-of-life support groups out there where people can openly discuss their heartfelt issues about it without worrying about the judgment and discomfort of those who are in avoidance. It would be good to have a forum to discuss issues that you raise — such as dealing with friends and family who are in denial, guilt trips imposed by others when freeing oneself of the “battle” mentality, and the sometimes unhelpful language others (including the media) use to frame your experience and choices.

  3. Dear Allen:

    We do have such a forum available on the Infolink’s associated social network (see “Nearing the End/Living with Grace“). However, I have to say that it is not among the most active of the groups on that network.

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