Do we really battle with cancer?

Mara B | Administrator |

 Can we be at war with disease in our body? Are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation really weapons? Are doctors, nurses and your care…

team the army, navy and marines? I know people always talk about battling cancer, but the only problem is that the enemy, cancer cells, live inside us, so there is an undertone that we are the enemy too, or that we our battling ourselves–or even worse, that we lost the battle or didn’t try hard enough.

I wish there were a better way to express ourselves when it comes to living with cancer and everything that comes along with it, the treatments, the hospital stays, the side effects, and the impact on our loved ones.  I know that a lot of people like this type of metaphor and find it empowering—every treatment is like a medal and a course of therapy like a purple heart.  In fact, this concept is so popular that there are 27,400,000 hits for the phrase battling cancer on Google.

In this era, where many more of us will survive cancer and we hope that the treatments will continue to be less invasive and more personalized, we need to think about evolving our metaphors for the next generation who may not know the cancers we knew.   I vote for superheroes as anyone who has cancer is a superhero to me.


  1. Dear Mara: I agree with you wholeheartedly and love to think of the language of oncology as evolutionary- it mirrors our approach to cancer as we move away from a “one size fits all” to precision therapies. I think the MGH Cancer Center should be at the forefront of the evolving the language of oncology and hope our doctors, nurses, patients, caregivers, and advocates can join us in this important cause, where cancer is no longer a war, where we are all empowered, and where cancer is given the importance it deserves- as a disease state, not as an overinflated battle. D

    Don | | 2:50pm

  2. Now we just need a better metaphor! Thanks for comments!

    Mara B. | | 2:55pm

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