Cancer is the best form of death, read the blog entry of a former editor of the British Medical Journal. The doctor said he was not against cancer research, but felt the world needs simple, cheap, evidencebased treatments, rather than expensive cancer drugs, many of which only extend life by a few weeks.
The doctor’s views were met with angry responses from doctors and relatives of cancer patients around the world.
Indian doctors said better end-of-life care helps ease the pain that comes with cancer deaths. “We l ook at giving patients and their family some quality time. A patient with a few weeks in hand may want to finish his few wishes and in that sense, he and his family are well prepared for the end,” said Dr MA Muckaden, professor and head of palliative care at Tata Memorial Centre (TMC).
Relatives of patients with advanced stages of the disease said they did not support the British doctor’s opinion. “Cancer is like any other illness. We have never thought of stopping any intervention and hope research can bring a drug that can help,” said Naveen Verma, whose wife Bhavna is battling cancer.
Bhavna, 32, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, has gone through three major surgeries. She has since been undergoing regular cycles of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries to fight the malignant cells in her body.
“She underwent a surgery for breast cancer and was getting chemotherapy and radiation. However in 2011, the cancer spread to her lungs, for which she had another surgery,” said Naveen, who works in an IT consultancy firm. Last October, Bhavna was diagnosed with skeletal malignancy, which means the cancer is spreading to her skeleton. She is now on oral chemotherapy and radiation, doctors said. “Not once during the treatment have we lost hope,” said Naveen.
When another family learnt their father, Yogesh Raj, had just four months to live, they took him to TMC’s palliative care unit instead of looking for treatment options. Yogesh was suffering from oesophageal cancer since August 2012, and died in May last year. “The tumour was removed, but it relapsed. In November last year the cancer struck again, this time it was his throat,” said his son, Sagar Raj, 28.
(With inputs from Akshay Tarfe)