Humans have an innate fascination with illness. We often provide those around us, whom are unwell or who are in a precarious predicament with their health, with misplaced advice of bizarre home remedies and old wives tales of disease curing elixirs. And to my great dissatisfaction, this still happens today with our highly serious medical diagnosis, such as cancer. It’s that one word that you never want to hear in the same sentence as yours or a loved one’s names! But unfortunately it’s the one word that is being mentioned more frequently in the medical world, even though we are yet expert at dealing with it.
So when did it get so serious, and why are we hearing this term more and more frequently? Well in Australia, we have growing rates of skin cancers due to our exposure to the sun, the fact that our “slip, slop, slap” campaign was really only launched in the 1980’s and maybe because of our obsession in the last few decades with tanning beds and salons. Serious skin cancers such as melanomas and basal cell carcinomas are becoming far more frequent, and, in younger generations too. BUT, our medical management is often speedy and people are surviving these cancers with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Breast and prostate cancer rates are higher. Research has recently enlightened us with the presence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that can, when they malfunction, predispose an individual to developing breast and ovarian cancer in women. The verdict is still out as to whether mutations in these genes can lead to a higher chance of developing male breast and prostate cancer, although we suspect that maybe they can.
So what are our medical professionals doing to help with our yearly growing numbers of cancer patients, and of cancer survivors? Lots in fact! New developments, research and medications are being trialled and tested on a daily basis. In Western Australia, our hospitals are expanding and developing new facilities and wards to cope with growing numbers of people requiring treatment and care (one in three individuals in Australia will have had cancer by the age of 85) and health professionals such as myself, are furthering their skills so that we can offer services to those in need within the private health care setting. We fundraise, we lobby and most importantly, we care.
So when you next hear of your neighbour’s uncle’s partners battle with bowel cancer, rest assured that their team of medical professionals, oncologists and surgeons, have heard of your home remedies and of the old wives tales of curing cancer, and please refrain from passing on your opinion. Not because it is not important, but because the amazing individuals that have made it their priority to tackle head on your darkest fears, are doing the best that they can in often nightmare situations. Often “too many cooks spoil the broth” as the saying goes and sometimes, people with cancer, don’t want your advice or even your pity, they want to just be.