updated from 7/2015
When Richard Nixon launched the “war on cancer” in December, 1971, he confidently proclaimed that we would have a cure for a major cancer within 5 years. Now, 48 years later, over $200 billion in public research funds spent at the National Cancer Institute, and over $4 trillion spent in therapy for cancer patients, we don’t have any unqualified cures for any cancers. The war on cancer has been a failure.
As a percentage of total annual deaths in America, cancer has escalated from 3% in 1900 to 24% of today’s deaths. Many experts have been quick to explain away this frightening trend by claiming that our aging population is responsible for the increase in cancer incidence–older people are more likely to get cancer. But aging does not entirely explain our epidemic proportions of cancer in America.
The five year survival rate in 22 different cancers has been increased by 2.1% using chemotherapy, according to a review in the journal Clinical Oncology. That is not much of a benefit given the horrendous side effects, costs, and toxicities of chemo. Another study from the Buck Institute for Age Research found that chemo may promote the development of cancer later in life. “Chemotherapy is brutal…” according to the study’s chair, Dr. Judith Campisi.
In a 2008 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine following 110,000 Norwegian women, researchers found that women who DID NOT get mammograms had 22% fewer breast cancers. Essentially, many breast lumps will spontaneously disappear and need not have dramatic invasive toxic oncology care. “Uncertainty about the value of mammography continues.” wrote the editorial.
Of all drugs evaluated by Dr. Brian Spear in the scientific journal Trends in Molecular Medicine, cancer drugs were the least effective, being effective only 25% of the time, with pain medication (analgesics) the most effective at 80%. John Bailar, MD, PhD, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, called the war on cancer “a qualified failure”. Yet, chemo, radiation and surgery are the only reimbursable therapies offered to most American cancer patients, who have to go to Germany or Mexico to find treatment options.
Cancer Rates Over Time
Five year survival rates for advanced breast and lung cancer are unchanged. In 1900 only 3% of deaths in America were caused by cancer. Today it’s 24%. As of 2014, cancer is the number two cause of death in America.
War on Cancer and Other Illnesses
Many Americans are “arsonists” with their destructive lifestyle creating health problems that are treated in the most expensive and dangerous way possible, with prescription drugs to relieve the symptoms, rather than using lifestyle to change the underlying cause of the disease. Smoking quadruples the risk for lung cancer, emphysema, and pulmonary disease. Obesity quadruples the risk for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disorder) increases the risk for esophageal cancer by 13 fold. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD wrote a bestseller ANTI CANCER A NEW WAY OF LIFE in which he exposes: “The western diet is fertilizer for cancer.” United Kingdom is beginning to deny medical therapies for patients who make poor lifestyle choices.
Nearly all of the 20 million diabetics in America have a self-induced lifestyle component to their disease. 80% of heart disease risk is lifestyle induced. A Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart attack by 70%, while the $14 billion we spend annually on cholesterol lowering drugs only cuts the risk by half that much.
Yet state and federal authorities rigorously patrol medical offices for any signs of deviating from “standard of care”, meaning non-traditional therapies. James Carter, MD, DPH, has written a disturbing book, RACKETEERING IN MEDICINE, detailing the “witch hunt” to eliminate any medical practice that uses protocols outside of prescription medication and surgery.
War on Cancer – Cost of Failure
“No good deed goes unpunished.” Anonymous
In the dark days of World War II, America was struggling to climb out of the decade of financial depression while fighting a war on two continents. Most able-bodied young men went to war. Women, like my grandmother, worked in the factories to provide supplies to the war movement. In order to prevent inflation, the federal government mandated wage freezes. Yet manufacturers had contracts with the government to produce airplanes, ships, and all the other needs of war. So employers started offering “free health care” as an incentive to bring capable workers to their factories. Seemed like an innocent idea at the time, but it has become a Pandora’s box.
Once the war was over, the concept of free health care as a “perk” (perquisite) grew in popularity, especially among union jobs. Once Mom and Dad had free healthcare, the next step was getting free health care for Grandma and Grandpa, which began with the passage of the Medicare Act in 1965. We need to take care of our senior citizens, and yet America has lost the concept of “personal accountability” that founded this country and put us at the top of the world’s caste system.
Medicare and Medicaid comprise a “debt that we cannot pay” or unsecured liability of around $62 trillion. We currently spend a billion dollars a day on Medicare, of which 60% goes to treat patients in their last 6 months of life, with questionable results in either quality or quantity of life. A Dartmouth study found that 30% of Medicare spending is wasted.
Health care costs have made America far less competitive in the global economy, resulting in millions of jobs “outsourced” overseas. Social Security and Medicare are already the largest expenses in the federal budget. The aging of the 75 million baby boomers threatens a “perfect financial storm”, since people under 65 years of age use $2761 per year in medical services while those over 65 use $12,271, which is a 440% increase in medical use by the aged.
Health Care Choices
Experts say that the “free market” system could fix our problems. Let capitalism do its work in lowering costs and improving quality through free market competition. The plastic surgery field has led the way. Plastic surgery is usually not insurance reimbursable, so the industry had to compete for customers like any other segment of capitalism. The result over the past decade is a tripling of consumer use and an 84% drop in costs, all due to free market competition.
Let the consumer pick and choose health care providers and therapies. Expand our options for treatment. Let “outcomes data” show us the most clinically effective and cost effective therapies and costs will be controlled when the consumer has a vested interest in the game. Let the insurance actuarial use real risk calculation to assess health insurance. Let the government act as the “referee” in this business, making sure the “game” is played fairly.
If not free market, then let the government take over health care with a single payer system–nationalized health care. The Veteran’s Health Administration, run by the government for veterans, has become a model of efficiency, treating patients for half the cost of other health care institutions, with a prescription accuracy rate of 99.9% and lower hospital infection rate. What we have now is some Frankenstein hybrid of health care that limits the free market considerably with a myriad of unnecessary governmental regulations and bureaucracies. Free market or government run. Take your pick. We could not do any worse than what we have right now.
Effective Health Care Choices
We have an ineffective health care system. You are encouraged to work with your doctor and continue on your medication while changing your diet and lifestyle so that, hopefully, you do not need the medication.
Whole foods offer us a treasure chest of known nutrients and more obscure “conditionally essential” nutrients that may be able to dramatically bolster your body’s ability to heal itself. And that is the best medicine of all.
PATIENT PROFILE: Benito Martinez Abrogan died in 2006 at the age of 120, leaving the oldest living human title to someone else. Mr.Abrogan was part of one of the poorest countries on earth, Cuba, which spends an average of $251 per person per year with free health care for all, compared to the $7900 per person in the United States providing patchy elitist coverage with dramatic invasive medicine as the prize. Cuba has so many centenarians (people who live to be 100) that they have a club. Mr. Abrogan lived a simple peasant’s life: hard work daily, walked everywhere, only ate what he could raise which was a plant-food dominated diet.
There are many books, including BLUE ZONES by Dan Buettner, which try to bring reason to the elusive subject of longevity. In general, the oldest people in the world work hard, live in the country away from city stress and pollution, eat a plant based organically grown diet, take naps, are respected for their age, no vaccinations, all breast fed as infants, have a sense of community in living with family and around friends, drink clean water that is high in minerals, and do not use medical services. Maybe our health care meltdown or metamorphosis will bring us a more sane, humane, scientific, and effective health care system.