Despite the expenditure of more than 10 billion dollars on cancer research, there has been little change in the mortality of most kinds of cancer. The fraction of deaths caused by cancer remains as large as before, and the amount of suffering cancer patients may actually have increased, because some of the forms of cancer treatment that have become popular cause the patient increased misery.
It is realistic to recognize that a diagnosis of cancer is often a death sentence, but not always, and not necessarily an immediate one. Some cancers patients recover completely, either because the cancer treatment has been timely and effective or because the patient has experienced what is called spontaneous regression.
The so called spontaneous regression probably are in fact not really spontaneous, but rather the result of some change in the nutrition or environment of the patient that stimulates his natural protective mechanism to such an extend as to permit them to overpower the renegade cells.
But even if the disease is not overcome it may be possible to extend the time between the date of diagnosis and the date of the death, and, much more important, to ensure that the person with cancer spends this intervening time not as an invalid but as an active and reasonably healthy human. We believe that the main objective of cancer treatment should be to give the patient a long, useful, comfortable, contented, productive, and satisfying life.
The kinds of cancer treatment available are:
– Hormone Therapy
– General Supportive Measures
– Supplemental Ascorbate
It is important that the particular treatment or combination of treatments that is decided on be tailored to the needs of the individual, that is, the patient should be treated, not the disease. The comfort of the patient and his own wishes should always be considered when a decision about treatment is being made.
The first point to note is that for many of the common forms of cancer the cause is already known and in some instances the cancer could be prevented and in other at least reduced. The second point to note is that for the majority of established cancers surgical excision of the growth within limits of spread still offers the best prospects of cure, but that because of various anatomical considerations surgical removal is often technically impossible.
Cancer chemotherapy is of very real value in the treatment of some leukemia’s and related malignancies of the lymphoid system and in the management of some other forms of malignancy characterized by very rapid growth rates, but is of very limited value elsewhere.
Improvement in the scope and effected of chemotherapy will undoubtedly occur, but the time scale is likely to be long and it seems probable that the vast majority of the common cancers of adulthood and old age will remain stubbornly resistant to this form of therapeutic approach. Radiotherapy is of excellent value as an adjunct to surgery in many situations, in association with chemotherapy in some other, and used alone can be quite curative in such quite different clinical problems as superficial skin cancers and deeply invasive cancers of the bladder.
While these are all very real therapeutic achievements, theyare hardly grounds for complacency. It has been roughly estimated that in an average large general hospital dealing will all sorts of cancer presenting for the first time at all stages of the illness, it is possible by conventional methods to cure one third such patients, and that another third are clearly incurable at the time of the diagnosis, leaving a ,idle third who might appear to be cured by the timely application of appropriate treatment, but who later relapse with untreatable recurrence of their disease and then die.
A success rate of nine one on three is fairly dismal record in the management of any disease, and especially in the management of the disease with such high incidence as cancer. Often the chances of cure can be increased by early diagnosis, but even then there is no guarentee of success.