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Marble statue of Asclephius on a pedestal, symbol of medicine in Western medicine

Medicine is the science and practice of establishing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics, and medical technology to diagnose, treat, and prevent injury and disease, typically through pharmaceuticals or surgery, but also through therapies as diverse as psychotherapy, external splints and traction, medical devices, biologics, and ionizing radiation, amongst others.

Medicine has been around for thousands of years, during most of which it was an art (an area of skill and knowledge) frequently having connections to the religious and philosophical beliefs of local culture. For example, a medicine man would apply herbs and say prayers for healing, or an ancient philosopher and physician would apply bloodletting according to the theories of humorism. In recent centuries, since the advent of modern science, most medicine has become a combination of art and science (both basic and applied, under the umbrella of medical science). While stitching technique for sutures is an art learned through practice, the knowledge of what happens at the cellular and molecular level in the tissues being stitched arises through science.

Prescientific forms of medicine are now known as traditional medicine and folk medicine, though they do not fall within the modern definition of “medicine” which is based in medical science. Traditional medicine and folk medicine remain commonly used with, or instead of, scientific medicine and are thus called alternative medicine (meaning “[something] other than medicine”, from Latin alter, “other”). For example, evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture is "variable and inconsistent" for any condition, but is generally safe when done by an appropriately trained practitioner. In contrast, alternative treatments outside the bounds not just of scientific medicine, but also outside the bounds of safety and efficacy are termed quackery. Quackery can encompass an array of practices and practitioners, irrespective of whether they are prescientific (traditional medicine and folk medicine) or modern pseudo-scientific, including chiropractic which rejects modern scientific germ theory of disease (instead believing without evidence that human diseases are caused by invisible subluxation of the bones, predominantly of the spine and less so of other bones), with just over half of chiropractors also rejecting the science of immunization. Read more...

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Small cell lung carcinoma

Lung cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. This may lead to metastasis, invasion of adjacent tissue and infiltration beyond the lungs. Lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and the second most common in women, is responsible for worldwide annually. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, coughing (including coughing up blood), and weight loss. The main types of lung cancer are small cell lung carcinoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma. This distinction is important because the treatment varies; non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is sometimes treated with surgery, while small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) usually responds better to chemotherapy. The most common cause of lung cancer is exposure to tobacco smoke. The occurrence of lung cancer in non-smokers, who account for fewer than 10% of cases, appears to be due to a combination of genetic factors. Radon gas, asbestos, and air pollution may also contribute to lung cancer. Treatment and prognosis depend upon the histological type of cancer, the stage (degree of spread), and the patient's performance status. Possible treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. With treatment, the five-year survival rate is 14%. (More...)

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Heart spect imaging.jpg
SPECT nuclear imaging of the heart, short axis views.

Photo credit: Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator

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  • ...Genotoxicity is the proper term for the DNA damaging property of many carcinogens. These chemicals alter DNA to induce mutations and then apoptosis. While this is a common property in chemicals that cause cancer it is also a property in drugs that fight cancer; these drugs alter the DNA of cancerous cells leading to mutations in cancer cells and eventual cell death.

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