Could cancer screening have
The death of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State University football coach, last week again brought attention to cancer screening. The media reported that Paterno died of lung cancer. Actually, he died because of the treatment he received for his lung cancer. It seems like today’s cancer treatments actually kill more people now than the cancer. Of course, they always attribute the death to cancer.
Regardless, the media always bring the attention back to the importance of cancer screening. But would screening have saved Paterno’s life? Will it save your life? The answer may surprise you.
Years ago, doctors recommended a yearly chest x-ray as a screen for lung cancer. But now, a new large government study on 150,000 older Americans just knocked that sacred ritual out of the water. In this study, the researchers found that those who had four annual chest x-ray screenings were just as likely to die of lung cancer as participants who didn’t have the tests.
This study proves that screening for lung cancer won’t help you live longer. The perception is that people live longer. But the cure rate is not any higher. By detecting the cancer earlier, it appears like you are living longer.
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I believe that any test that looks for cancer after it emerges is a wanton waste of time, energy, and money. Recent estimates suggest that it takes at least $5,000,000 to save one man from dying of prostate cancer by screening and interventions. In fact, it might be several times more than $5M.
Cancer screening is going to die hard, like a dragon thrashing its tail after the knight has pierced its heart. Corporations are making too much money on mammograms, prostate biopsies, colonoscopies, etc.
I don’t recommend ANY test to screen for cancer, PERIOD. By the time one of these screens can detect cancer, for 80% of the cancers, it’s too late. For the other 20%, the cancers will go nowhere. Sadly, we hear about people raving about how early screening and mutilation (mastectomy) saved their lives. That keeps the paradigm alive and motivates friends to have false hope. These survivors were most likely those 20% whose cancers would have gone nowhere. Yet the system encourages us to believe that conventional intervention saved them.
Whatever you do, don’t let the deaths of celebrities guilt you into making medical decisions. Focus on what you know is the right course of action.
If you are interested in detecting cellular changes BEFORE they degenerate to cancer, the only tests I recommend are the PAP smear, breast thermography, and in men, a PSA test. In the latter, you’re NOT screening for cancer detection, but for assessment of inflammation. An abnormal test is not an excuse for biopsy. Remember, even if you had one, and it was positive, it’s too late. Cancer already exists. Not the same with the PAP. It detects changes before they become cancerous. Your doctor can freeze off any highly abnormal (not cancerous) cells. Then seek care of an integrative doctor to prevent recurrence.
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