Newspaper article MinnPost.com

The War on Cancer, Then and Now

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

The War on Cancer, Then and Now

Article excerpt

Growing up in a Minneapolis suburb, my baby boomer buddies and I spent our days playing summer baseball on the neighborhood field, football in the fall, and hockey on our local pond in the winter. But as I entered my teens, new fears crept into my life, and I would be forever changed.

Beyond the anxiety over nuclear weapons and the Kennedy assassinations was the reality of cancer. My best friend died of acute leukemia when we were juniors in high school. The only thing I knew about cancer was that everyone was supposed to get a check-up and send a check to the American Cancer Society. Life was just expected to go on after he died.

Win was expected in finite period of time

Time did go on, and because of my friend's death, I dedicated my life to his memory. I also wanted to better understand cancer because of my fear of it. So I became a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer. Back then, we were either naive or arrogant enough to believe that if we could put a man into space, we surely could defeat cancer. We declared the war on cancer, and we expected to win within a finite period of time.

One of the hallmarks of this war was early detection. In the early 1970s, headlines generated new hope in a blood test known as the CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen), which would detect cancer early and lead to cures.

Early detection was and still is important. But as we all know, winning the war on cancer is no fast or simple feat. As research progresses and we peel away the layers of the cancer cell like an onion, we are getting closer to many answers - perhaps not one answer as people hoped in the early days of cancer research, but many answers to a complex disease.

A new conversation

Today the conversation has transitioned to the cost and effectiveness of various cancer screening tests. For instance, you have likely heard the discussion about prostate cancer screening: Is it appropriate for all men or just some, and at what age? …

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