“Ending ‘The War’ And Giving Up ‘The Fight’: How Not To Talk About Cancer” by , Wbur’s Common Health.

Hers was the face of someone defeated by cancer. Our conversation was grim. She wanted to “fight,” to continue treatment. But there were no more options. I vaguely remember speaking, feeling hopelessly ill-equipped. I, too, felt defeated. As a young physician and aspiring oncologist, I wondered: How do we prepare ourselves and our patients for these conversations?

When the National Cancer Act was signed in 1971, our nation’s political and social will was focused on a “war on cancer.” The widespread use of this language is rooted in a propagandist history promoting the belief that, with enough resources, this is a conflict we will win. Consequently, victory became defined only by “defeating cancer,” or finding a cure. But a new theme in medicine has emerged: how to talk about dying. Some suggest making exposure to end-of-life encounters mandatory during medical school. Others stress creating systems and providing more resources for patients and doctors to encourage earlier planning for death. But in order to facilitate and advance this difficult conversation, we must first change the very words we use to discuss cancer.

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