What You've Heard
Google "cure for cancer." Go ahead. We'll wait. If you did it right, you'll notice that the media likes to claim that a "cure" for cancer has been found. If you prefer to get your medical insight from Outkast, you might remember when Andre 3000 rapped about the need for a "cure for cancer, cure for AIDS" in "Bombs Over Baghdad." While Andre doesn't have the medical authority of fellow rap luminary Dr. Dre, nothing seems strange about that line. Cancer and AIDS are the two most high-profile killers of our era, and medical science has taught us that if we live long enough, we'll see them both eradicated like polio.
The idea that cancer can be cured rests on the assumption that cancer is a single disease. Most of us recognize that lung cancer is not the same as breast cancer simply because they're both in the chest, but the fact that they're both cancer seems to suggest that they're at least the same type of disease. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Which is why Andre 3000's dream of finding a single "cure for cancer" is actually impossible.
He hasn't been this disappointed since Polaroid cameras were adopted by hipsters.
This is yet another potentially deadly issue of semantics. The term "cancer" refers to over 200 completely different diseases. There are basic similarities among them and how they attack your body. They're certainly more similar to each other than they are to causes of death like heart attack or getting hit by a car. But the more we learn about cancer, the more we realize that they are, for all practical purposes, completely different diseases that require different treatments.
"See, for skin cancer, we just sigh and tilt our heads. For lung cancer, we get out the sympathetic hand puppets."
It's obvious why the people working on cancer research make it seem like it's possible to find the cancer equivalent of the polio vaccine. Funding is necessary to explore any treatment option. If they were honest and said that "Researchers May Have Discovered a Possible Lead in the Fight Against a Rare Form of Pancreatic Cancer, and It'll Be Years Before We Find Out if It Works or Not," then nobody would be very interested. "A CURE FOR CANCER HAS BEEN FOUND" is clearly the more effective attention grabber.
HOLD ON TO YOUR BALLS, MEN, WE GOT THIS.
To see why this can be deadly, imagine two ads: one for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and one for the Cancer Fund of America. "Why just help out with one type of cancer, when I can help out all cancers?" you say, donating to the latter. What you don't know is that the former has an A+ Charity Watch rating, while the latter has an F. But the fact that there are so many charities out there organizing races for "The Cure" would suggest that the war on cancer is being funded by people whose understanding of advertising surpasses their understanding of what's actually at stake.
And some cancers hog all the publicity.
For more bullshit you probably believe, check out Your Mom Lied: 5 Common Body Myths Debunked and 6 Lies About the Human Body You Learned in Kindergarten.
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