Breast Cancer on the Run in October: (Day 31) Synergy, Everyone and Everything


The previous 30 posts were randomly arranged. I suppose I could have ordered them on a chronological timeline, but I don’t think it would have been as interesting.

imageBut the recent history of improvement in the treatment of breast cancer did not unfold in an orderly and timely manner. There were starts and stops. Theories were posited and then rejected. The path is littered with failed ideas. You are only viewing events that have emerged in importance in the fullness of time.

No singular event or person is central to this story. There are many significant players and significant events. In their totality they add up to much more than their individual parts. I guess the word here is synergy–all the individual parts hold together as a whole and play off each other in an expansive way.

This is significant for those who want to tinker with and fine tune our approach to this disease going forward. It is impossible to assign value to one event or another. This is a large edifice built with many bricks layered onto each other. If we remove one, will the edifice weaken or crumble? What if we relax our recommendations for mammography or women lose their interest in sharing their stories or their activism?

So many people and so many events have contributed to this success that I think everyone and everything deserve recognition–from the widowed husband walking on an October Breast Awareness March to honor his fallen wife to the beleaguered researcher looking into a microscope and searching for a cure. And, of course, there are all the woman who have suffered through the disease and talked to us about it.

I look back on this story and wonder why it all didn’t happen sooner. Progress sometimes just plods along, attentive only to its own internal rhythms. Science and Medicine move similarly. But Science and Medicine can also be prodded by outside forces to alter its internal rhythms, which I think is what occurred here slowly and cautiously.

Perhaps matters did not move at a great speed because we doctors are a cautious group. The value of a change has to be demonstrated and convincing. We want it to be studied. We are bound by the instruction to “first, do no harm.” At times this important notion precludes taking chances that are necessary to expand our knowledge and test new possibilities.

The world is imperfect and we humans are often unruly, but we carry on as best we can. With the help of everyone and everything, we sometimes stumble onto success and a better world for all. So it goes….




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