Of Cures and Mores


Earlier this month, I found myself at one of the exciting forums I’ve had the opportunity to attend this year- the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia Congress 2016, in Singapore. This was the right place to be, especially since 2016 was my year for expanding my learning about cancer. The editor of the iconic woman’s magazine Harper’s Bazaar is far thinking enough to have commissioned me to do a three part series on breast cancer, and I used this opportunity to talk to many health professionals: oncologists and other kinds of therapists, to gain knowledge about the new era of cancer treatments and how ‘integrative oncology’ is being embraced world-wide. At ESMO, I got a glimpse of the dramatic advances made by scientists in the understanding of different cancers, and the extent to which personalized medicine has changed the future for cancer patients. Here are a couple of facts about lung cancer that totally threw me off: more than one fourth of cases occur in non-smokers and we Asians are more susceptible to genetic mutations that complicate treatment, than Westerners! Cancer, it turns out, is almost random in its choice of victims. You could be following the prescription for health and still end up with malignant cells in your body. C’est la vie.


Yesterday, I picked up Darryl Cunningham’s book ‘Science Tales – Lies, Hoaxes and Scams,’ (nominated for the ‘Best Book’ by the British Comics Award) and flicked through a few pages, unsure of what to expect. The author has chosen some hotly debated topics in science- such as Electroconvulsive Therapy, chiropractic, and climate change- and de-mystified them for the general reader, using cartoons to simplify concepts that are otherwise tedious and involve too much effort to comprehend. I picked up lots of interesting bits and pieces. Though I have a degree in microbiology and am supposed to be well informed on scientific developments, reading Cunningham’s book made me confront the glaring gaps in my knowledge! A chapter I found particularly illuminating was on ‘Homeopathy.’ Though I’ve always been skeptical about the efficacy of this so-called treatment system, till now I didn’t know the theory behind this practice, or why this is so flawed. The author’s conclusion that the only benefit of homeopathy is the attention the patient receives from the homeopath – who asks more detailed questions about the patient’s health and lifestyle than the average doctor- is backed by the stories he tells of people who suffer because they choose homeopathic treatment in lieu of allopathic medications. “An avoidance of science based medicine can only lead to sickness,” concludes Cunningham. I shut the book, and threw away the single vial of sugar pills in my medicine cabinet with relief.


The humble garlic clove wins the health award of the year as far as I am concerned. Though my grandfather who lived to the age of 101 ate raw garlic every morning, I never imagined I would be doing the same, at half his age. But 6 months ago, I decided to try this out, as a way of alleviating the inflammation in my wrists and finger joints. It’s worked! I did experience a miracle after all…

Here’s to a Happy New Year!










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