Not a Helpful Word

Don D | Physician |

To me, battling is a part of the language of oncology that concentrates too much on the imagery of cancer as a war. Battling brings to mind fighting, a struggle, often against…

a very well-armed enemy that is quite difficult to kill. When it comes to cancer, it is not terribly useful. One cannot live one’s life battling cancer; just like heart disease and diabetes- it is something that must be treated.

To me, battling assumes that someone (or something) started the fight which assumes a measure of will was involved. It’s symbolism that places too much credit to diseases like cancer. Cancer is the result of a biologic process gone awry; it was not a conscious process, and one’s body did not “begin the war”. As a result, “battling” is not a great way to describe what our patients and we intend. We emphasize living beyond and through cancer, by treating it.

There are no winners and losers in cancer. There are purely people impacted with a disease, and doing everything they can to live through/beyond/despite it. With our help, they will be able to.


  1. I’m with you! I worry especially when someone “loses their battle with cancer.” Did they not fight hard enough? Have a strong enough will or clever enough doctors? No – the language of fighting and battling is problematic to me when it sets up people with cancer to be potential losers.

    Betsy | | 10:00pm

  2. Don D thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight. It’s really helpful to hear your perspective as a physician treating cancer patients. You are obviously a very caring and compassionate person. I’m with you on the use of battling in relationship to cancer. You could not have put things into words more perfectly. Thank you for the opportunity to read your thoughts. Take Care

    M | | 10:38pm

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