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Spontaneous Remission
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

At one time it was believed that cancer would never spontaneously go into remission. If left untreated, cancer would inevitably grow and worsen, until it devoured the body of its victim.

However, data from numerous studies now show that many small tumors will shrink and eventually disappear if left alone. The reason for this, explains Dr. Barnett Kramer, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health, is that cancer cells do not grow independently; they are dependent on the surrounding cells for support. The human immune system is capable of mounting a defense against cancer cells in their early stages, eradicating the disease before it ever shows clinical manifestations.

These studies are casting doubt on whether all tumors caught in their early stages need to be treated aggressively, or whether it would be more prudent to simply monitor them carefully and intervene at the first sign that they might become destructive. Treatments for cancer can themselves be quite toxic and destroy healthy tissue. Studies demonstrating the spontaneous remission of cancer also strengthen the concept that healthy behaviors and attitudes, including strong doses of hope and optimism, can go a long way towards curing this most dreaded disease.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that cancer is an illness characterized by out-of-control growth of a particular part of the body. Most illnesses are ones of deficiency or malfunction, while this one is one of excess. In spiritual terms, the disease corresponds to an overarching ego and self-centeredness. In time, one's egotism can grow until it becomes truly malignant, overtaking any positive character traits or accomplishments that the individual may possess.

The cure for cancer is to treat it aggressively, and remove the cancerous cells. Similarly, the cure for ego is to demolish it completely. The teachings of Chassidism have the potential to completely subdue the ego, by revealing how great the Creator is and how small we are in comparison. In contrast to the potentially lethal treatments for cancer, however, studying Chassidism can never harm the individual and will only strengthen him further.

Is it possible for the ego to spontaneously go into remission? In the times of Moshiach, we will experience such an overwhelming revelation of G-dliness that it will leave no room for ego. Then, our ego will go into remission. With G-d's help we will also experience a cure for all ailments, both physical and spiritual. 

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.



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