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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/554

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

naturalists are familiar. According to present beliefs, suppuration and "blood-poisoning"—pyæmia, septicæmia, erysipelas, and lock-jaw—are due to the growth in the wound of microbes which are parasites there; and within the last few years we have learned how to stop the growth of these microbes, and to prevent inflammation after operations with mathematical accuracy. In the application of these methods to the work of removing malignant growths, operators fearlessly expose all infected tissues for great distances, and remove every vestige of the disease in cases in which a few years ago they would not have dared to operate thoroughly for fear of the resulting inflammation.

Treatment by medicines is of no avail in curing malignant growths. The reason why medicines are useless in such cases is evident if we look at the subject through the germ theory, for it can be readily understood that any drug which is powerful enough to destroy cancer microbes would also destroy the blood-corpuscles. It is safe to say, that we shall never have a drug which will cure cancer, in spite of the statements contained in the patent-medicine advertisements. Local applications of caustics for the purpose of curing cancer are seldom made by reputable surgeons to-day, because a glance at the anatomy of a malignant growth is sufficient to show the folly of attempting to reach the deeply-infected lymphatic vessels with anything except the fingers aided by sharp eyes. Very small malignant growths can be cured by means of the local application of caustics, and large growths can sometimes be removed temporarily; and as this is easily done, charlatans have found a large field for work by appealing to the patient's dread of the knife, and promising to cure by milder means. While the patient is trying other methods than the one which surgeons of responsibility employ, the disease is usually getting such a foothold that opportunities for help are lost.

Many lives would be saved daily if cancer patients could be so educated that the delusions which lead them to tamper with so-called blood-purifying medicines and with irregular methods of surgical treatment would give place to fairly good reason. There are no secret methods of cure, notwithstanding advertisements to the contrary; and there are no ways or means for the cure of cancer that are not known to the responsible surgeons of all civilized countries.

Probably little can be done, however, in the way of directing the majority of patients properly, because the emotions of a victim of the disease are apt to be exalted, and the intellectual faculties are in consequence deprived of the exercise which they would have in conducting the ordinary affairs of life.

Legislation which prohibits illicit medical practice and the sale of useless medicines is becoming more and more strict in the European countries and in the large American cities, and it is through proper legislation alone that we can expect to see any marked decrease in the number of deaths which yearly occur from cancer.