I read on the BBC web site about Bob Harris and his Prostate Cancer battle. He mentioned the weeks between realising that he had cancer and then waiting to see if it had spread as the worst weeks of his life and perhaps the most frightening too. I felt real empathy and was beginning to fill up just thinking about how the poor guy must have felt especially as they thought it had spread. He was pretty relieved to find it hadn't but then had to go through the chemo and hormone treatments required.
It is the added dimension of Cancer that it strikes this level of dread into the most hardened of us. The word itself is enough to shake you to your core and to have it brings the added "bonus" of dealing with the emotional baggage that attaches itself to you. At the end of the day, the word carries more force than perhaps it ought to but it is up there with words like Holocaust, Hitler, Mussolini, and Hiroshima. It has a bad press and the common denominators of death and pain, courage in the face of adversity, "no cure", and many other myths and misconceptions are programmed into us so that we respond very negatively to the word itself and have little comprehension about what it is unless you have it, deal with it or treat it.
The press and media need to try and make the word serious enough to respect but not demonised - more education and more openness about it would help without putting people off. Too many still get the symptoms and will not go to their GP to sort it out early.