The real lesson about Steve Jobs’ cancer

steve_jobs135148Since Steve Jobs’ death almost a month ago, much has been written about his approach to dealing with his pancreatic cancer.

However, David Gorski over at Respectful Insolence here and here has provided the most level-headed analysis of Jobs’ ordeal that I’ve read anywhere to date.

The bottom line is that we simply do not know enough about Jobs’ circumstances with this particularly pernicious form of cancer to know whether his nine-month flirtation with quacks before submitting to the Whipple surgical procedure made any difference in his death. The Whipple procedure can save the lives of a very small percentage of pancreatic cancer patients, but we do not know if Jobs’ tumor was of the specific type that can be effectively eradicated through that procedure. About the only sure thing that can be said about Jobs’ foray into the ephemeral field of “alternative medicine” is that it didn’t help his situation.

The optimistic view of therapeutic intervention in medicine that post-World War II doctors embraced has resulted in enormous advances in our understanding on how to cure, or mollify the effects of, disease.

But the real lesson of Steve Jobs’ cancer is that there remains much more that we simply do not know.

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