On Friends Affected by Cancer, and Environment Oncology

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I learned that a woman I know slightly, a journalist, has Stage 4 lung cancer. Debra Sherman is a reporter for Reuters and began a blog, Cancer in Context.  It’s a moving start of what I hope is a long journey.

What struck me is how Debra describes crossing a line, a bit the way I felt when I found out I had breast cancer. She writes:

I have been writing about medical technology and healthcare for more than a decade. I’ve covered the major medical meetings, including the big one on cancer. I’ve written stories about new cancer drugs and treatments…I wrote those stories objectively and never imagined any would ever apply to me.

She’s shifted from what you might call a “straight” reporter to an i-reporter journalist. And although it’s true that Debra may be less objective than some other writers on the subject, she’s already knowledgeable – through her prior work – on many of the relevant terms and issues. Much of what she knows already, vocabulary included, may allow her to make more informed decisions. It’s possible it may enable her to write in a way that helps readers more than ever.

Earth, from space (NASA image, Wiki-commons)
Earth, from space (NASA image, Wiki-commons

I wish her the best with her column, and with her health ahead.

The bigger issue, of which the story reminds me, is that we’re living among too many young and middle-aged people who have cancer. Every day I read or hear of another case among my neighbors, a friend, a blog. Each reminds me of the need for research, better drugs, and greater knowledge of why so many tumor types – including lung cancer in women who haven’t smoked much, and breast cancer in young women – are on the rise.

The ASCO meeting, where believe me I wish I could be but can’t now, offers a bright picture for targeted drugs, genomics, novel immunotherapy and better data access and analyses through a huge new platform called CancerLinQ, All good. Great, really.

In thinking about each new case in my “world” – if I could pick a field for future investigation that might lead to insight on cancer’s causes and, ultimately, reduce the cancer burden 30 and 50 years from now, I might choose the tiny, under-funded area of environmental oncology

That’s a tough field. Most oncologists want to work with patients. Researchers want to publish papers. Cause-and-effect is hard to demonstrate, especially when most of the data is untenable and you’re up against businesses, politics and people who, understandably, don’t recall precisely what they ingested years ago. But to stop cancer from happening so much, that’s where the money is. IMO, nothing more.

All for this week,


Related Posts:

1 Comment

  • Hi Dr. Schattner,
    I just finished reading your Huff Post article titled, “What Needs to be done about the Rising Rate of Advanced Breast Cancer in Young Women”. Very surreal as it is dated March 1, 2013 exactly 12 days before my 35 year old wife and mother to our toddler was diagnosed with stage 3c rare invasive squamous metaplastic triple negative BC. Your tip towards environmental oncology is a term that I had not yet heard in the months post dx, and it coins the thoughts in my head as to what would be the most meaningful direction to head. In fact, since my wife’s dx I want to dump all of my many years of general DDS and specialty training and immerse myself in environmental oncology.
    The concept of reducing the cancer burden on our future generations rings loudly in my mind as I think of our 2 1/2 year old daughter. Thanks for writing about this and thanks for introducing me to environmental oncology. I will follow the related news on the subject closely from my dental career perch as my wife proceeds through treatment. As you touch on in your writings, I’m baffled by the dearth of knowledge on causation here…
    Jason Horn DDS

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.