Doctor’s Memoir ‘Cancerland’ Brings a Human Side to Cancer Study

Dr. David Scadden is a hematologist, oncologist, and Harvard medical school professor. He is also the author of a memoir for a book recalling his early medical schooling and career. David Scadden offers a snippet of his book “Cancerland” on WRLN.org that broadcasts South Florida radio and television news.

Scadden’s Background

Scadden now has 40 years under his belt as a doctor, but he recounts the journey and occurrences that got him interested in the field of blood and cancer. Scadden was always interested in science and medicine, both because he wanted to help people and because he was fascinated by the process of learning about the human body.

One day while doing an internship at the Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, he got a devastating call from his family. He received the terrible news that his mother had been diagnosed with an advanced cancer. He was working on rotation and had 36 hours on and 12 hours off and was overwhelmed as it was. The news almost broke him.

Scadden did manage to convince his mother to have her surgery at the hospital where he was interning. This way, he was able to stay close to his family during this time of need. Watching his mother’s struggle with cancer made him decide to go into cancer care.

Studying Blood Cancer

Interestingly enough, the more involved Scadden got, and the more he learned, the more he realized how little is really known about the human body. At the time he first branched into cancer care, he was amazed that clinical oncology seemed to be a mix of learning how to mix “poisons” for treatment. There was only a small amount of science happening in pharmacology at the time. He found himself particularly interested in blood cancers. He became interested in studying blood, because their genetic abnormalities set the them aside from other cancers at that time.

This began Scadden’s journey into hematology and oncology within internal medicine. Scadden spent forty years studding cancer both in the laboratory and its implications in the larger social context.

Real and Simple Kindness

In his memoir, Scadden also noticed how cancer can bring out the humanity in a person. People, he declares, tend to be their most authentic self when facing cancer. Patients, families, and caregivers can sweep away the superficial and focus on the essence of what it means to be human, which usually results in “real and simple kindness.”

Scadden marvels on how today’s research brings together different scientists, such as biologist and chemists, to work towards a common goal.

The current state of science, he says, holds many possibilities. More precise surgery is possible, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy agents are improving. Less toxic treatments have been found for cancer patients as well. Treatments are more custom-tailored, and we see these advancements in the increase in medical advertising.

A constant expectation hovers over the cancer medical world, and there is a lot of talk about breakthroughs.

To read more about David Scadden’s story and memoir as reported by WLRN.org, click here. To check out the book, click here.


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