An Inconvenient Cancer Truth - Page 2

Author // Matt Rushford, DC

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An Inconvenient Cancer Truth
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No mention of dietary, environmental, lifestyle, mental, or emotional factors that may be available to keep women safe. No mention of what a woman can do, outside of drugs and surgery, to prevent this disease if she is over 25 and has not yet had children. She is, presumably, to believe that the significant resources devoted to cancer research— millions of dollars over decades—have failed to discover a single link between diet, weight, exercise, mental health, social conditions, environmental factors, including toxins and pharmaceutical drugs, or quality of life on any other level, and developing cancer. Her choices are: take drugs, surgically disfigure or remove the relevant organ (let’s hope they don’t transpose this mentality to brain tumors), or start having babies.

It is interesting that this philosophy is not met with more resistance by the community. Many groups have pointed to the conflict of interest that is inherent in such strategies. It’s true that, relative to the simple lifestyle changes and conservative alternative treatments that we already know about, the fantastically expensive high-tech world of treating cancer in people who already have it offers a different level of compensation.

For example, serious questions have already been raised about the sketchy research and questionable implementation of the Gardasil® vaccine. Gardasil®, the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, is being pressed on our young daughters with a great amount of force, despite the fact that it has never been tested for longterm safety, its efficacy is unknown after 3 years and the research on the vaccine was funded entirely by the very company marketing it (Merck, the makers of Vioxx. Vioxx was withdrawn in September 2004 because it was found—after full FDA approval and 5 years on the market—to cause a significant increased risk of heart attack and stroke). If all these issues were to somehow magically disappear, Gardasil® vaccination might be included in a discussion of cancer prevention. That is, if it were effective against more than 3.4% of all HPV infections. These facts make it easy to raise questions about the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry—one of the most lucrative industries on the planet—and declarations that disease is “inevitable.”

But perhaps more germaine to the argument is the deeper issue of the unique and limited paradigm of the medical industry, one whose goal is not, nor has ever truly been, the perpetuation of health and wellness, but merely the treatment and care for disease. Understanding that these are two wholly different clinical objectives is critical to understanding the shortfalls of utilizing so exclusively the paradigm of medicine to approach the complex problem of cancer (and other degenerative and infectious diseases) in our society. To the medical mind, we get sick when we get cancer. To other minds, cancer is a manifestation of a predicating sickness. And this idea of “sickness” is not limited to the individual, but expands to encompass the local and global environment with which that individual interacts. Looking for how our diet, lifestyle, environment, air and water quality, quality of life, and other factors might contribute to getting us sick in the first place hallmarks the mindset behind authentic preventive thinking.

Going to the cause of things has never been the strong suit of medicine, but this is simply because medicine, since its inception with barber-surgeons, has always been a limited focus specialty field whose realm was, essentially, saving lives and postponing death. Medicine has always been good at this, never more so than today. But its limited field of vision becomes a liability when the subjects of prevention, wellness, and health arise. Not until we expand the framework within which we work on the problem of cancer beyond the myopic perspective of the medical paradigm will we even be asking the appropriate questions about how to respond to the problem and safeguard our future generations.

This is not to indict the medical establishment, but it is meant to hold them—and all of us—to a higher standard. That standard includes being honest and accurate when we use terms like “cure” and “prevention.” Treatment is not cure. Screening is certainly not prevention. It means being more straightforward about what screening and treatment represent: damage control. It means acknowledging that too few resources go into finding practical ways to safeguard our posterity from ever getting these diseases, and too little of the conversation focuses on this objective. It means acknowledging that, as bad as it sounds, there are people in this world who stand to lose a lot of money if an actual cause-cure relationship is discovered. This should make us very skeptical toward the propagation of fatalistic ideologies and summary dismissals of authentic prevention of disease.

Treating people who have cancer is a noble thing. But we should hold ourselves to a much higher standard when we start talking about “cures” and “prevention,” because this concerns not only our current generation, but also our progeny. What will our legacy be? I would like to challenge our community to insist upon a discussion about restoring health, what measures can be taken to avoid cancer in the first place, and how we can prevent our children and grandchildren from getting cancer.

What would cancer research look like if we held ourselves to these standards? The paradigm would focus on establishing long-term (multi-generational) solutions that are pro-active, not just preventive. This means understanding and acknowledging the difference between enhancing health and preventing disease. It means devoting resources into better understanding them both, rather than focusing mainly on expensive detection methods and risky treatments. It would mean that cancer research would earnestly investigate known vectors for cancer and known methods for preventing and treating it, even those methods which are alternative, holistic, or natural; namely, not profit-making to the medical or pharmaceutical industries. It would mean that the public education campaigns would focus on these vectors; telling us what we can really do to avoid cancer: what to eat, what to avoid, and what traditional as well as alternative therapies are worth looking into.

Some researchers believe that women can reduce their risk of contracting breast cancer by as much as 75% simply by introducing dietary and lifestyle changes, including consuming fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; adding elements such as healthy omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, coenzyme Q, sea vegetables, and various vitamins and minerals; reducing red meat consumption, smoking, and dietary and environmental toxins; and increasing physical activity. And of course it has long been known that adding a regular regimen of chiropractic care has been shown to boost the immune system significantly.

More importantly, this discussion would bring us to the point where we could see the limitations of the prevention paradigm itself. We would encounter an opportunity to look beyond simply avoiding cancer and would expand into an exploration of how to perpetuate and enhance human health and the actualization of our potential on all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

What would a cancer awareness month look like if we held ourselves to these standards? I think our grandchildren are dying to know.

Pathways Issue 19 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #19.

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