May is cancer research month
But where does all the money go? It certainly doesn’t get spent on trying to find a cure for Metastatic Breast Cancer. As with all metastatic cancers only a tiny percentage of the money goes to research the cancer once it has spread. In the case of breast cancer that is about 3%; and no, that is not a joke.
In the 1964 there was a one in 20 chance of developing breast cancer. By 1980 there was a one in 14 chance, and now there is a one in 8 chance of a woman in the western world developing breast cancer during her lifetime. Men can also develop breast cancer, though statistically that chance is much smaller, but it is still a risk. In 1971 Richard Nixon declared war on cancer. Since then the chances of getting breast cancer have doubled – what is going on? Billions of £, $ and Euros spent and the risk has doubled? Is this value for money? NO.
How does the average cancer patient get the research community to really begin to focus on the things that could make a big difference? How do we even begin to approach companies whose major concern is their bottom line. The people who do the research may well be very committed to finding answers, but what are the questions that they are allowed to find answers to? Anyone who dares to think outside the box is immediately decried as a quack, charlatan or just plain nuts. But does orthodox science have all the answers? After all orthodox science once thought the earth was flat and if you sailed too far out of site of land you would fall off the edge. People were burned at the stake for questioning the orthodoxy of science. When Elizabeth Kenny started to treat polio patients with exercise this ran counter to the established opinion of the day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Kenny) and initially she was only permitted to treat patients after they had gone through the acute phase. Others have had to put up with their ideas being belittled, but some of those ideas are now the accepted treatment.
When did people’s health take second place behind the ego’s of those who think they know it all; those who think that it is my way or the highway? We nearly all start off thinking that breast cancer is just one disease. Then you do some research and find out that it has many forms, as well as the ability to shape-shift and morph into another form, and it is even possible to have one tumour that is triple negative and another which is hormone positive or any other combination that the cancer feels like being. This knowledge seems to have been developed in the five and a half years that I have had breast cancer but still metastatic tumours are often not biopsied when the cancer spreads meaning that a treatment with little chance of working can be given. Even with all the research that has been done there are still no effective cures for those whose cancer has spread.
Yet so much of the money goes to prevention, but breast cancer prevention is dominated by the mammogram and screening using expensive hi-tech machinery which can give false positives, or lead to a cancer diagnosis for a form of the disease which may never have caused symptoms during the patient’s lifetime. Many men die with prostate cancer rather than dying of prostate cancer. Screening is all well and good, but it is expensive and not necessarily effective at certain stages of a women’s life. Younger women have denser breasts which makes mammograms less accurate because they can’t see in as much detail. In the UK mammograms are available every two or three years once you are 50 until the age of about 75. In my case I got the letter with an appointment and had to phone them up and say that it was already too late as I have Metastatic Breast Cancer. The lady on the phone was very apologetic. I was diagnosed with Metastatic disease when I was 47. Another problem with mammograms is that they are, in themselves, a form of x-ray and too many x-rays can cause cancer! Newer machines are being developed which use thermography to locate any tumours and are more accurate, but they are new and cost serious money.
What is being done to look into the environmental factors that have been shown to be a factor in the development of cancer. Why is something more not done about these? Is it because companies are making too much profit by using cheap ingredients in everyday products even when they have been linked to cancer? Modern farming techniques and agrochemicals have reduced the nutritional value of our food as well as harming the environment. http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=1647&Title=Safe Pesticides – The Myth. Recently the EU has voted to ban some insecticides because of their effect on Bee populations because bees pollinate so much of our food crops http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22335520 … but I digress, as usual. Things are added to food to make it look better, smell better, taste better and last longer, but they are not necessarily making it healthier and better for our bodies. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2313276/Man-keeps-McDonalds-burger-14-years-looks-exactly-the-day-flipped-Utah.html. We need food to sustain us, but the way it is being produced, processed and packaged may be contributing to our ill health rather than our good health.
Research has to extend our knowledge and understanding and give us renewed hope that future generations who are told that they have cancer will know that there are treatments which will work with their bodies and truly be effective; that science has moved beyond ‘slash and burn’ to finding ways of enhancing the resistance of the body to this disease in kinder ways. Alternative therapy should be a range of different ways of deal with and treating cancer, and not as something wacky. I have taken an approach of dealing with my cancer which has taken in conventional medicine, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, as well as meditation, nutrition, Traditional Chinese herbal medicine, reflexology, acupuncture, supplementation and other approaches to treat my cancer in multiple ways at one time. I like to keep it guessing!