There’s been brilliant news in the last week or so for people with lung cancer and melanoma too – it seems as though the scientists have managed at last to stop cancer hiding in the body. This means our immune systems can suddenly ‘see’ the cancer cells and attack.
I’m not going to attempt a more complicated explanation – either you are a science person who will be aggrieved at the way I’m blundering through the terminology, or you don’t have cancer in which case it’s not really that interesting. But it is fantastic news all the same.
I suppose the even better news is that I am not eligible for these drugs, as I don’t have cancer now at all. Of course, I’m touching large chunks of wood as I even say this. And, better than that, I’m clutching my copy of Anti-Cancer by Dr David Servan-Schreiber.
This is a wonderful book that everyone, cancer sufferer or perfectly healthy person, could benefit from reading. Dr Servan-Schreiber describes his chance discovery of an aggressive tumour in his own brain, and the massive life-change this brought about. At the start of the book, to be frank, he sounds like quite an arrogant chap. A brilliant research doctor, he opted not to treat patients, and lived the sort of stressful life that allows you to forget to enjoy the minutes as they pass. By the end of the book, struggling against the grim reality of death, for himself and for his patients, he has researched every possible way a patient can try to influence their own outcome, improve their health and have the best possible chance against the tsunami of malignancy that is cancer. At the same time, he is all for traditional medical treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. I think this is a lovely, and sensible approach and it seems incredibly rare – either you go for alternative therapies or you take the NHS cancer pathway. But why should it be either/or? As Dr Servan-Screiber shows, it makes more sense to adopt every strategy you can – throw everything at it. It’s possible that you may still not win in the end, but the end can be a long way off, and you will at least go out with all guns blazing.