Diagnosis + 40 Days


I want to respond to the following letter posted on the list:

From: John Oram <John_Oram@millipore.com>

-> Date: 21 May 96 12:43:28 EDT

-> Subject: Success Stories


-> Hello again,


-> Does anybody know why doctors often seem to choose the

-> fruit scale to describe the size of a tumor? I guess I've also

-> heard a few readings off of the athletic equipment scale -

-> i.e. golf-ball sized.

After doing substanital primary research at important medical libraries, my understanding is that the fruit scale was developed by Frederick Fruit, a colleague of Darwin who also served as Darwin's compote consultant on the HMS Beagle. While Darwin moped around the deck, Fruit was developing his own theory of evolutionary development based on, you guessed it, fruit. The original notes Fruit scribbled in the margins of his cookbook are now lost, probably eaten by Galapogas Tortoises, but we know from others that the original scale went something like this:


Lime (changed to Lemon c. 1888)



Both Kiwi and Grapefruit, now mainstays of the NCI fruit scale, are more recent additions. Fruit, who had severe glaucoma in his later years, tried to amend the list to include bananas and star-fruit but was prevented by more far-sighted colleagues, leading to the well-known "coconut lymphoma" incident, in which Fruit diagnosed a member of parliament as a "standing lymphoma with a lump the size and shape of a coconut attached to his neck." Since most Britons didn't know what a coconut was at the time, this insult had little effect and went unnoticed for almost thirty years.

There is a theory that Fruit did not actually develop the Fruit scale, but merely expanded on it from a painting he saw hanging in the Praedo in Madrid. This painting, and I'm sure I don't have to tell some of you this, is the famous Modigliani "Fruit Basket" in which an urchin is seen pointing at a bowl of fruit with one hand and pointing at his neck with the other, while a man in white coveralls looks on from behind a door. The phrase, "Dr. Oncodoc" embroidered on the coveralls has left many art critics confused and in need of psychiatric help.

There was a movement in the early part of this century to replace the Fruit Scale with a more appropriate Organ Scale:



Neck bone


But the cumbersomeness of saying, "I have a lump in my head the size of a brain" or "I have a lump in my groin the size of a testicle" or "My neck has swelled up to the size of the neck of a bigger person than me" made the organ scale unwieldy and it was dropped, causing Seymour Organ to retreat into a dark funk for several years.

Later, during the rise of baseball as the all-American sport and the replacement of fruit with sporting goods as the basis of the American diet, another important scale was developed:



Baseball (tennis ball for people from NYC)

Bowling Ball

Football (metastic tumors of the brain only)

The scale, now officially adopted by the NCI, is still in use today in the Chicago area. Other scales have also been developed, including the Money Scale:




Silver Dollar

Big Chest of Doubloons (not a good prognosis)

and the all-important Politicians Brain Scale:

Billions and Billions of Politician's Brains

Later this scale was expanded to include television anchors, but eventually was deemed useless as nearly all lumps exceeded the largest possible measurement on the scale.

So while entrepreneurs and medical professionals develop new scales and methods of measuring the extent of tumors, most patients still rely on Frederick Fruit's classic medical list.


"Thomas Hodgkins Died of Natural Causes"