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Cancer on the Brain

Health, Psychology, emotion, medicine

I got a call from a friend last year. He had prostate cancer and wanted some help thinking through what to do. He had gone to his doctors for the details about his physical condition. He was calling me for help dealing with the other condition he knew he was facing — excessive fear of this dreaded disease that sometimes does more harm than good, what some have called “cancer phobia.”

He knew that, like many cases, his prostate cancer had been detected when it was still asymptomatic, and was the slow-growing kind unlikely to ever become symptomatic or to kill him — given he was an otherwise healthy man in his 50s — before old age did. He also knew about the occasional side effects of treatment — urinary incontinence, rectal bleeding, sexual impotence — risks that thousands of men take each year not so much to remove from their bodies something that might harm them, but to remove from their minds the fear of living with cancer.

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