Why is Cancer so Dangerous: The History and Future of Cancer

Cancer has been the foe of life ever since life was complex enough to understand it. Or maybe it plagued life forms before lifeforms understood what life is. No matter when it came, ever since it has been known, nothing more fearful and devastating has come than cancer. It breaks down a person, takes away any happiness he/she holds, and not just the individual, the disease also destroys families. A disease that has been part of all aspect of our lives, from TV shows, books to real life, just like it grows and spread in the body, it has done the same in society. So why is cancer dangerous? Let’s try and find out.

Cancer vs Others

There are a lot of terrible diseases that festers not only human flesh but mind and strength too. There is HIV AIDS, there’s SARS, Alzheimer’s disease, genetic aberrations and so many deadly diseases that is beyond the scope of this article. So why does this ailment still reigns as the true king of human suffering? Because the disease is a better version of ourselves. It is a version of us that beats us down to our knees and we cannot do anything but just give in. Cancer is not a foreign bacteria or virus trying to live in your body or a simple genetic mistake that causes abnormality in your basic functioning. It is just you trying to kill yourself.

How old is cancer

Cancer is as old as recorded human history. Although not called by the same name, it was described by a healer in Egypt in his notes where he kept records of the various diseases and their possible cures. Against this deadly disease, he just wrote, “no cure available”. It is depressing to know that the words were written thousands of years ago would still hold is some sense.

Graves of long-gone tribes were dug and many skeletal remains show traces of cancer, confirming that this disease has been a part of us as life has been a part of us. So how come there are more cases of cancer now than there were before? Many reasons are responsible for that. One of the reasons why it was riddling society everywhere was that humans did not live very long to see the symptoms of cancer.

Why is it tough to beat it?

A CT scan of a cancer-ridden body
CT Scan Of cancer . Image Credits : Stevenfruitsmaak

Drugs are chosen on a simple principle. Drugs that don’t affect human functions but stop microbial and viral functions are used to treat diseases. Sadly, there is no drug that can distinguish a cancerous cell from a normal cell. So the possibility of getting a perfect drug that eliminates only the cancerous cells while leaving the normal cells untouched in next to none. There are some chemicals that target cells that divide abnormally but they also damage healthy cells causing the patient to suffer more. The other problem is cancerous cells are better versions of our cells. A carcinogenic cell can develop immunity to a particular chemical and become immune to it. Cancer beats us in all ways possible.

Excise the Cancer.

The first step in treating cancer is to surgically remove the cancerous mass if it is accessible and has not spread everywhere. Surgery alone cannot treat malignant forms of cancer and hence are coupled with multiple-drug chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The reason for this additional therapy is no matter how precise our scalpels become, reaching single-cell accuracy is impossible with conventional surgery. And if only one malignant cancer is left after surgery(which is usually the case) the disease will relapse within months( if one is lucky). The history of cancer is filled with cases of extreme surgeries that rendered patients immobile and more damaged than with cancer. We are literally in the stone age of surgery.

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The Devastation of the Cure

Lymphoma, cancer of lymph
Lymphoma – Cancer of Lymph

The cure is sort of a deal with the devil. It takes away the ghoulish part of you but also leaves you broken or deformed or most of the time, both. Major surgery will deform you while the chemo and radiotherapy that accompanies will leave your bones charred and blood vessels burnt. In a way, cancer leaves but leaves the image of itself in you. It takes away your life, rendering your life in just breathing, not living. The mirror does not show yourself now, it is the perversion of you by the disease.

The Cause

epithelial sarcoma
Epithelial cells. Normal cells like these can turn cancerous.

Cancer is a very complex disease. That is one of the reasons why it is such an enigma. There are multiple causes of cancer on the outside. Smoking, carcinogens, viruses, etc are such exterior sources. But the crucial internal cause of the disease is purely genetic. Some cancers like retinoblastoma are relatively simple, while others like breast, lungs, etc are complex genetic aberrations that are difficult to pinpoint. Multiple mutations in the genetic code result in cancer. These mutations can be triggered by outer sources as mentioned above. But the complete understanding of cancer is still in the dark and waiting to discover.

The Strength of the disease

Billions of dollars have been spent on the search for a cure of cancer and sadly we are just using the refined version of the same old methods. Decades of the systematic fight against cancer has led only a handful of results. But it is such a terrifying disease that even if a new method of treatment increases the life expectancy by just 3-6 months, it is considered a massive advancement. But there are people who are working day and night to beat this dreadful disease. 

New Dawn

A CT scan room
CT Scan is currently used to look for cancerous growth

There still lies a hope that one day, people will read about the treatment of cancer in this era and laugh at the primitive methods used by us. A time when they will wonder in astonishment as to why we injected poison to cure ourselves of cancer. They will be as shocked to find out methods of treatment as we are shocked by the treatments like draining the blood out in the medieval age. One day it will happen, but the important question is whether this day will come 20 years from now, or 200 years. CRISPR and gene editing has given us hope. Nano-bots and the integration of technology in medicine can also contribute a lot to the removal of cancer. Let’s hope one day cancer will be treated with just vaccination.

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