There are few other words that can evoke such a strong emotional response within us. We all know someone who was afflicted with it or passed away from the disease. Perhaps some of us are currently battling this disease.
All physicians deal with cancer, approaching it from different aspects of the disease. An internist or primary care physician suspects the diagnosis from the signs and symptoms with which the patient presents. The radiologist views a radiographic image of the cancer. The surgeon performs the surgery and attempts to remove the cancer. The oncologist creates a treatment plan to eradicate any remnant of the cancer. The psychiatrist deals with the emotional effects of the diagnosis upon the patient and family.
The surgical pathologist’s task is to examine the cancer under the microscope and render a definitive diagnosis, a histopathologic diagnosis. For the majority of cases, the diagnosis can be readily made. There are thousands of variants of cancers and every known cancer has a distinctive pattern of growth. With some cancers, it is the appearance of the individual or grouped cancer cells, with others, a peculiar growth pattern, still others will show a characteristic molecular or protein structural profile.
The most difficult cases to diagnose are not always the cases that are the most aggressive and lethal for the patient. Cancers can arise within any organ including the bloodstream. One clue to diagnosing a cancer is the cells may resemble the organ from which it arose. When cancers closely resemble the organ of origin, the term well differentiated is invoked. Well-differentiated cancers can sometimes resemble normal tissue so closely that it is only by utilizing subtle diagnostic clues, that one can confirm the diagnosis. Other cancers may exhibit a histopathology that shows extremely bizarre features, a term known as poorly differentiated, revealing an increasingly distorted and grotesque representation of the organ from which it arose. It is not uncommon for cancers to begin as well differentiated and progress to poorly differentiated. In some cases, the cancer becomes so poorly differentiated that additional studies are needed to confirm the organ of origin. In these cases, there is no question that the cancer is malignant. But there is a need to correctly identify the type of cancer so treatment can be individualized.
Cancer is a hideous disease. Sometimes, the only way for physicians to cure it is to diagnose it an early stage, when it is limited to the organ from which it arises. Medicine has made tremendous advances with different screening tests such as Pap smears, serum PSA, and breast mammograms. Sadly, in spite of this, some cancers are still missed and may present with signs and symptoms of metastasis, at a stage that is too late for conventional medical therapy.
Sin, like cancer, is easy to recognize in its most malignant form. Murder, kidnapping, larceny-no one could mistake any of these for a noble action. But like a well-differentiated cancer, when sin presents as slight deviation from moral behavior, presenting with ever finer shades of gray, recognition becomes difficult. Exploiting a questionable tax loophole, laughing at or telling off-color jokes, surfing the social internet during work-the list is endless and is only limited by the total time in a day.
Regardless of the type of sin, if left unattended, any sin can grow, spread, and eventually kill its host. Seemingly small sins may initially act like a well-differentiated cancer and do very little damage. But what seemed like an issue that at one time could easily have been taken care of, may grow to become a problem careening out of control. It may spread to others and cause pain and suffering not limited by time or the person from which the sin arose. It can become a twisted caricature of our personalities and traits. With time, one sin may be layered upon other sins, leading to a hopelessly chaotic grasp of reality.
We live in a fallen world where diseases like cancer can rob us of our own lives and of those whom we love. But God understands this pain and anguish we feel and has answered our cries for help. God has given us a great physician who not only diagnoses our sins but can extinguish them, forever.
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Unless Jesus Christ returns to earth to take believers and the church to heaven, all of us will die. Medicine may help diagnose and even prolong a life with cancer, but this is just a temporary remedy. The real cancer is our sin. This is what causes us to die. This sin may manifest as pride in ourselves, or a lack of trust or unbelief that God can do all He promises. But God is faithful and took the initiative to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross and be resurrected. And because of this, death has no more power over Him. And through Him, we will have eternal life and live with Him in Heaven someday, if we accept and believe upon Him as our Lord and Savior.
Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
We need a Savior. We need the great physician, Jesus Christ.