Cancer as a Challenge
Cancer is one of the major challenges for modern medicine. This challenge has two aspects: scientific and medical. Scientifically, it is motivated by the aspiration to unravel fundamental life processes, perturbed by cancer. Medically, it means finding effective ways of prevention, diagnosis and treatment for it. As a result, cancer research is a subject of top priority of modern biology, addressing both the scientific and the medical aspects of this challenge. Since most people have only fragmentary knowledge regarding this scary disease, presenting relevant information in an organized, methodical way, may assist in relieving anxiety, by delineating the background and rational of preventive, coping and treatment options, from a scientific viewpoint.
This book aims at reaching this goal. It is an introductory,systematic description for knowledge-seeking people, of some of the exciting discoveries of cancer research. Specific discoveries about the cellular, molecular and genetic aspects of cancer have been and are still triggering the development of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. There is also increased recognition of the nature of cancer as a complex system, which may generate a paradigm shift in medical thinking on the disease. This may result in a significant change in the medical approach to cancer and serve as a basis for integrative treatment program, offering hope for more effective coping with and treatment of this disease. Some principles and implications of the complex system perspective of cancer are presented in the last chapters of this book.
Most of this book focused on the discoveries concerning the biology of cancer. Yet we must bear in mind that science deals with facts and is indifferent to values, not recognizing any purpose or spirituality in nature. This stance is part of the philosophy of science. Even when dealing with cancer as a complex system,we focused on its physical aspects, hardly referring to the mental ones. Yet, as Viktor Frankl nicely phrased it, “The human being is an entity consisting of three dimensions: body, mind, and spirit.”
Just as we must have three inseparable physical dimensions of length, width, and height, so are our body, mind, and spirit inseparable components of the system called human being.If we ignore any of these dimensions, we no longer refer to a whole human being but rather to his one-dimensional or two dimensional projection.
The spirit dimension is the subtle, non-corporeal aspect of being human. It is the basis of the human being’s wholeness and meaning; this is what gives him his freedom to choose his way of life, identity, and his way of development. This dimension allows a human being to see a meaning beyond his suffering. Therefore, concluding this book we should refer, at least briefly, to this dimension, without which any discussion of cancer is incomplete.
The spiritual dimension of human life can have many manifestations, each capable of making one’s life meaningful, despite and sometimes because of serious illness and suffering.Every patient at any stage of his disease, and in fact any person in any life situation, can find, create or shape the meaning of his life.
The author, Jacob Shoham, MD, PhD, is a Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. In his ongoing work, he deals with both the medical and scientific aspects of the cancer challenge. As a physician, he specialized in internal medicine, and studied Medical and Integrative Oncology, as well as nutritional medicine, Chinese and Western herbal medicine, and mind-body medicine. He combines these aspects in his integrative therapeutic approach to cancer patients. As a cancer researcher, he previously studied cancer cell behavior, and is currently focusing on immunological and inflammatory responses to cancer.
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