Monday, June 18, 2007


Ulcer and cancer are highly undesirable conditions that can manifest on any human body. But the peculiar nature and treatment of these two diseases can provoke interesting thoughts in anyone’s mind. In fact, the terms –cancer and ulcer- can conjure up many ideas to many people in many fields. More than mere physical conditions that can harm our body or even kill us, their distinct characteristics are highly representative of a wide variety of disorders in other fields as well. Something being cancerous or ulcerous explains quite a lot about it. This is equally true whether one is talking about an ideology or person or organisation or issue. Let us take the two terms out of the realm of doctors for an interesting study. Since we are outside the field of medicine, a little bit of imagination is also allowable in the usage of these terms.

Cancer represents a malignant growth caused by uncontrolled cell division and it can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic or blood streams. And an ulcer is a circumscribed inflammatory and suppurating lesion on the skin resulting in necrosis of tissue. In simpler terms, cancer is caused by the uncontrolled multiplication of cells by themselves and ulcer is something that results from an unwelcome external intervention. While both result in discomfort for the victim, the progress and end results can be quite different. Both are caused by external agents and both are undesirable as far as the victim is concerned. On a broader perspective, the victim can be a family, society, nation or even humanity as such. And the external factor that initiates a cancerous or ulcerous growth can be an ideology or organisation. It may be noted that the cells that become cancerous or ulcerous are those present in the host’s body itself and not brought in from outside. Only the influence or reason has come from outside. But once a substantial number have turned cancerous or ulcerous, there is absolute disaster that awaits the victim. The progress to discomfort is much faster in the case of ulcer than cancer and there are cases where repeated ulcers at the same location can lead to fatal cancer.

Ulcer and cancer have more striking differences than similarities. Ulcers are ugly, localised and easily noticeable. Quite in contrast, cancer usually escapes notice for a long time and it is something that shakes the entire edifice of the victim. Years ago, some Indian doctors had concluded that cancer has a ‘herdity’ factor attached to it. People of a particular herd fall easy prey to cancer and individuals in a herd get drawn into cancer by the ‘herdity’ factor. Ulcer develops only in a location that has been hurt but cancer can manifest on any location. And ulcer does not usually spread to other locations but cancer can spread unnoticed and eventually tie-down the victim in a fatal grip. The secondary attacks of cancer on the vital organs always take the victim’s life and it is often the sad price for neglect or complacency.

There is also a lot to be learned from the way the two maladies are treated. In comparison, ulcers are much easier to treat and cure the victim. The best option for treatment of ulcers is clean surgery and removal of the undesirable parts. Ulcers may look ugly but the surgical method of removing them leaves a healthier body and makes the life of what remains much happier. In contrast a cancerous attack would leave the victim half dead if not full. Surgery for a cancer victim is only a part solution. Spread of the disease is so silent, systematic and strong that nothing short of full fledged radiation can save the victim. The collateral damages due to such a treatment can turn out to be more damaging than delivering. The best solution available to potential victims of ulcerous and cancerous ideologies is prevention. If you are wounded by an external force, the first thing to do is to clean it up. If proper care is taken at that stage the wound will neither turn ulcerous nor cancerous. But if it is left unattended or allowed to aggravate, the consequences can be much damaging. Ulcerous tendencies operate more openly and it is easier to recognise them. They are not much resourceful and can be easily tackled by shear physical force especially in the beginning. A quick and forceful wash at the very beginning by a good antiseptic can kill all the ulcerous tendencies that may be eyeing a fresh wound. But one has to be much more careful to avoid the cancerous tendencies. They are tactful, treacherous, silent and sophisticated.

Ideologies that influence our individuals and society operate on similar lines. There are ideologies that are ulcerous which takes out a part of our mind. Unchecked growth of such ideologies often ends up in surgical separation of the ulcerous part. But the cancerous ideologies that spread in organised but silent ways can cause internal damage, weaken and eventually destroy the whole society. The sheer diversity of our Indian nation is giving easy refuge to many such ulcerous and cancerous ideologies. One can easily notice cancer cells spreading on almost all the vital organs of our democracy through the loopholes of electoral politics and disaster is not far away if we are not vigilant.

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