Saturday, July 18, 2009

War on Cancer Working for Whom?

Now we are suppose to be checking for thyroid cancer! The 40 year war on cancer has been pushing us all into a greater and greater consciousness of how we could die.

Self-screening takes up more and more of our time. And medical procedures to screen for breast, colon, prostrate and thyroid cancer now take up more and more of our medical dollars. Some estimates say $700 billion is spent on medical costs for these early warning cancer screenings. And under most insurance policies we pay for those because yearly exams fall under the annual deductible. Which would be fine I suppose if they work.

But in a recent Times editorial by Natasha Singer doubt is expressed:

An upshot of the decades-long war on cancer is the popular belief that healthy people should regularly examine their bodies or undergo screening because early detection saves lives. But in fact, except for a few types of cancer, routine screening has not been proven to reduce the death toll from cancer for people without specific symptoms or risk factors — like a breast lump or a family history of cancer — and could even lead to harm, many experts on health say.

I can certainly feel that way about exams that are intrusive like pap smears and colon exams. Or exams that squeeze your tits in vises or subject you to continued and regular doses of radiation or microwaves. But I think what bothers me most about this push for awareness of cancer is that they have us thinking constantly about it. Most of my friends are avid readers of books that tout ridding yourself of poverty consciousness or failure mindset. And yet they are constantly talking about their latest cancer screening being negative.

I think cancer awareness programs have created a cancer consciousness which over-estimates our risk of cancer. These programs, I argue, work only for the medical profession. It helps them make their Lexus payments.

I do think most Americans need better body awareness that goes beyond your jeans fitting too tight. And if you sense there is something wrong or don't feel well then see a doctor. But if you feel fine live life to the fullest. Tomorrow you could be hit by a truck.