In Tribute: Her True Calling

Exactly 10 years ago today, I got one of those calls we all dread. My mom had cancer, a stage-4 brain tumor, the kind that seems to pop up out of nowhere fully formed and beyond repair. I was standing in my kitchen when I heard the news, and I remember dropping the phone as I […]

Off Our Meds: Doctor Knows Best

This week LWON presents “Off Our Meds,” an examination of some scary issues in medicine. We won’t resort to fear mongering, because we don’t have to. Medicine is scary enough as it is. The woman came to Scott Haig, an orthopedic surgeon, because she had a lump on her collarbone. Usually these lumps are caused by arthritis or […]

This week’s worst press release (so far)

I get a lot of ridiculous press releases, but the headline that made its way to my inbox today, “New Cancer-Fighting Game App Goes Global,” represented a new level of nonsense. The press release described a “ground-breaking” smartphone “cancer-fighting game app” that promised to “help young cancer patients fight their disease.” If you’re like me, […]

The Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth

When is a sin a virtue? When the sinner is an assasin, and the sin is laziness. In cancer, however, it’s diffiult to know which tumors will be slothful and which will be aggressive. This is the dilemma behind the ongoing controversies in screening and treatment for conditions such as breast and prostate cancer.

Lung Cancer: Replacing the Blunderbuss with a Stiletto

Van VanderMeer is about to celebrate an anniversary that he’d probably rather forget. In December 2009, VanderMeer thought he had caught his annual winter cough; for a few years in a row, he’d developed a chest cold around this time of year. But this one lingered. VanderMeer was competing in a mixed doubles tournament in […]

Steve Jobs and the Limits of Sequencing

The death of Steve Jobs is unfolding as a morality play between mainstream and alternative medicine, with doctors and bloggers blaming Jobs’ untimely demise on his decision to delay surgery while he tried acupuncture and herbal remedies. The reality is that Jobs’ story tells us as much about the limits of conventional science and medicine […]

Avastin and the Power of Hope

This week, an FDA panel unanimously voted to revoke its approval of Avastin (bevacizumab) for breast cancer. The decision evoked cheers from some groups and jeers from others.  At least one group derided the decision as the work of a  “death panel.” Initially hailed as a wonder drug, Avastin is a monoclonal antibody first approved […]

Brooklyn Takes its (Unnecessary) Medicine

Last week, my neighborhood health food store ran out of potassium iodide, a compound that can prevent thyroid cancer in people exposed to high doses of radiation. When I called the store, an employee told me demand has been high “ever since the incident in Japan.” I live in Brooklyn, New York, nearly 7,000 miles […]