the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

treating cancer as a chronic disease

In healthcare on June 10, 2009 at 8:57 am
breast cancer cells

breast cancer cells

(b/c apparently it’s health care week on this blog) In a recent nature publication, a researcher suggests that we eschew the “war on cancer” paradigm that has dominated treatment regimes for 20+ years. why do we try to kill all the cancerous cells in the short term in a patient, robert gatenby asks, if we know the cancer is fatal and doctors can prolong life by treating the disease chronically? gatenby’s essay asserts that by eliminating only the most active and destructive cells, and leaving a reservoir of active cancer cells in the patient, we can perhaps limit the number of cancerous bodies resistant to chemo or radiation.

of course, there should be continued “magic bullet cure” research going on, and this is a tough ethical question to consider as well, but such I think chronic treatment has a positive secondary effect: it forces more patient-doctor interactions and promotes (often more cost- and treatment- effective) lifestyle changes in the patient. it attempts to break down the larger, more expensive “disease as something to be treated” health care paradigm and shift us more towards a healthier “managed care” way of thinking.

  1. I was just talking to a naturopathic doctor about this the other day! We were discussing alternative ways to treat cancer and about how it could benefit the patient to put off chemo or operations temporarily while the body is brought to a more healthy state and the cancer was shrunk or weakened, if possible. Especially in older patients, where chemo and operations can sometimes shorten life, doctors and patients have to make the call between aggressive treatment and maintenance of a tumor that will be eventually fatal. It’s a really tough question, but one that needs to be brought up and examined. Good blog post :o)

  2. I hate automatic smileys. That was supposed to be a classic smiley, not an open-mouthed angry smiley. Sorry

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