Is War A Good Framework For Addressing Cancer?

A physician asked me this a few months ago, and I thought it was a great point.  We were discussing the fact that there are often times when we (the medical institution) may try too hard to “cure cancer” (see some of the points in my post about palliative care).  When it’s viewed as a war that has to be won, it may be that too much effort is spent to beat cancer into remission rather than thinking about the patient’s experience.  (see cartoon from below)

A friend game me this example…While his brother’s cancer was in remission, the toll of the chemo and the other treatments was so much that he was never able to work again.  The patient would have preferred to be able to work a few more years and die of cancer, but that discussion never happened. 

In general, I believe most physicians would consider this a failure.  They’re taught to “beat” the disease not to back off and let the disease “win”.  But, I often hear about the “war on cancer“. 

Even after 40 years, we still have a large amount of annual deaths from cancer. 

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