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On Cancer

October 16, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

During the past year three friends have struggled with cancer. All three are in their 50s and 60s and have different forms of cancers, two with gender-specific types. After two years, one is cancer-free. Another is doing better, but has struggled and struggled. The third has lobbied for experimental stem-cell treatments from his health insurance provider and will be departing for a leading cancer center soon in the Pacific Northwest.

Cancer research is still continuing, on many types of cancer.

Cancer can strike children or young people just starting their glorious lives or on the other hand, cancer can be present in the aged, like my father, who probably had some cancer tumors in various organs, but he passed away from “natural causes”, a euphemism for his vital organs, like the kidney or liver, which just could not continue on after decades of working to secrete toxins, and just gave up one day.

The challenge of seeking “cures” for cancer is that there are still many years on basic research on the human body, especially regarding cells (and how and why cells grow or don't) at the molecular level. Similarly, in the early frightening years of the AIDS scourge, many researchers focused on a cure, but without guideposts of cell development, many research projects ground to a stop, with no positive results.

A Time magazine (October 1, 2012) special section on former President Bill Clinton’s “5 Ideas That Are Changing the World (for the better)” featured ‘Healthy Communities Prosper” globally. Interestingly, a poverty-stricken African country, Rwanda, through a consortium of U.S.-based foundations and government agencies, launched a Cancer Center of Excellence in a city far far away from Maui – Butaro. Just four years ago, Butaro did not have a basic hospital for a local population of 320,000, twice the size of Maui County. This new cancer center will provide “world-class” care, “not just for local Rwandans but for the entire region” – a fantastic jump from one medical level of central Africa to another level way up the scale, nearer to London or New York.

My last year’s November blog post Can Medical Tourism Boost the Maui Economy highlighted how patients from around the world in search of high-level medical care could bring revenues to an entire region, including airlines, hotels, restaurants, even a boost for real estate as apartments are acquired for family members to stay through lengthy medical procedures. Simultaneously, R & D in innovative treatments and also state-of-the-art medical facilities benefit local people, like my friend who would have been spared painful travel to the Pacific Northwest for treatments.

Again, for this terrible illness, there is so much to research and study, so much to do, and to build the right medical community to find future cures for cancer.


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