By Howard Jacobson
No disease is as feared or misunderstood as cancer. Because of this fear and confusion, a diagnosis can shake us to our core. At which point, we’re especially vulnerable to bad advice from the medical establishment, as well as unproven and potentially harmful “alternative” modalities.
While there are many ways of treating cancer, and different cancers have radically different potential outcomes, the best policy is always – when possible – prevention. This article will compare the evidence for the mainstream prevention strategy – early detection – with the kids of diet and lifestyle changes I promote.
You’ll discover that you have a lot more control over your health destiny than we’ve been taught.
Mainstream Prevention: Early Detection and Screening
When you stop to think about it, early detection does not “prevent” cancer. Instead, in theory, it catches cancer early enough to do something about it.
So the question is, does population-wide screening of asymptomatic people help us “do something about it” in a way that reduces suffering, disability, and death. Turns out that with the exception of the pap smear for cervical cancer, screening actually may harm more people than it helps.
The Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit health research group that does not receive funding from industry, has determined that mammography for early detection of breast cancer has the following risk/benefits profile:
If 2000 women receive biannual mammography for 10 years:
-One woman will be saved from death by breast cancer.
-10 women will be treated for cancers they do not have or that would never have been detectable or become significant (through partial or complete amputation of the breast and/or drug treatments).
-200 women will have a “false alarm” and experience, for a time, all psychological stresses of believing they have cancer when in fact they are perfectly fine.
-2000 women will undergo painful mammograms with these radiation screenings increase the risk of lung cancer and heart disease.
For more information on the science behind these statements, check out Gilbert Welch’s book, Overdiagnosed.
The risk/benefits profiles for population-based PSA testing for prostate cancer and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer are similar. They harm more people than they help, and turn hundreds of thousands of perfectly healthy people into worried patients. (For more information, see The Great Prostate Hoax, by Richard Ablin with Ronald Piana.)
So if we can’t “prevent” cancer through screening, what can we do? Are we powerless to change our fate, or do we just have to wait until we get sick enough to need treatment? And at that point, isn’t it often too late?
To answer that question, we have to look directly at cancer and its causes.
What Causes Cancer? Learn more…