WHEN TO LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE;
Or if it isn't broken, don't fix
BY SHARI SCHREIBER, M.A.
An old friend e-mailed me the article following this preface. I was thrilled to finally read some material that echoed what I've believed for decades, and I considered it valuable and important enough to share with you! The author is a physician, who questions the viability of the medical community's 'early detection' practices, and in my opinion, it's time someone did!
Frankly, I'm appalled by TV and radio ads that bombard us with health concerns, which instill fear, warn us of serious dangers if we're not hypervigilant regarding our bodies--and tell us to ask our doctors if various drugs are "right" for us. And have you ever noticed, we're given absolutely no clue as to what these drugs are supposed to treat? I can't imagine that your doctor's the least bit happy about those commercials, regardless of all the free drug samples he receives from the manufacturers making them! Under the guise of "guarding your good health," there seems to be a tendency to undermine it, by making sure that fear of "life threatening diseases" remains in the forefront of your mind, and that just can't be healthy!
Fear is an important emotion--but it can weaken and disempower us when it overrides rational thought! Throughout history, entire societies have been controlled and manipulated, simply by keeping people fearful. One of the most powerful emotions we experience is fear, because we feel it intensely in our bodies. When we feel afraid, chemicals like adrenaline are released into our bloodstream to help us react to that stressor with fight or flight. Sadly, many of us grew up in homes where our 'fight' response had to be suppressed (in order to survive), so we're conditioned not to protect ourselves from someone or something we think has more power than we do. When our safety or survival is threatened, our autonomic nervous system automatically responds to the anxiety/panic that's triggered, with physical symptoms; shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, sweating, etc. I bet you remember each of the times in your life you felt really afraid--and how hard it was to give your attention to anything else.
Metaphysical principles teach us that what we give our focus to, is what we manifest and create more of, in our daily reality. If this is true, that adage we've all grown up with, "be careful what you wish for" can't be nearly as dangerous, as "be careful what you fear!" In short, we easily attract what we fear the most, because we're constantly focused on trying to evade it! Psychologically astute individuals may refer to this phenomenon as prophesy fulfillment, whether it applies to fears about swine/bird flu, global warming, cancer--or just "waiting for the other shoe to drop!"
At the baseline of this tendency is an entitlement issue, which asserts; I'm not deserving or worthy of receiving what I need and want. This notion must be dismantled and eliminated, or you'll push away anything and anyone who could bring you real joy, for the rest of your life.
My present concern is about these damned TV commercials that urge parents to protect their daughters against the Papilloma Virus. This is a fancy name for a sexually transmitted disease called genital warts--which may spawn cervical cancer! Instead of warnings which stress that condoms should be used to protect females against contracting and passing along this virus, mass inoculation is encouraged for young women--and that's just not right! Pay close attention to the contraindications of this "preventive" measure, and figure out if you want to take those risks with your child's health. Have you wondered why this virus isn't presented as a sexually transmitted issue in those television spots? Well, you can be certain that the manufacturer of this drug is making millions off your fear! Cervical warts are very difficult to get rid of, and females aren't generally aware they have an outbreak--which makes spreading them through unprotected sex easy--but mass vaccinations aren't the answer. Better sex education, is.
In context of the article below, there are some practitioners who believe that mammograms are harmful to our breast tissue because of repeated, yearly exposure to radiation. The darned machines they use these days can be injurious to women, because they're hydraulically (rather than manually) adjusted to a patient's breast size. A few of my friends are physicians and I deeply respect them; still, as an independent thinker, I'm somewhat rebellious--especially when it comes to my health and the care of my body.
Over the course of many years, I've healed myself of things that doctors couldn't, simply by listening to my instincts and intuitive wisdom. Long ago, I decided to get ultrasound scans every couple of years instead of going the traditional (X-ray) route, just satisfy my gynecologist's mandated medical protocol. This is an inexpensive, painless procedure that's used as a secondary (more detailed) diagnostic tool, when your "abnormal"mammogram needs further evaluation. In my mind, choosing this procedure made perfect sense! Write me, and I'll be happy to answer your questions and/or let you know where to get this done.
In context of mammograms, just think for a moment about when you last got an X-ray of your tooth. Didn't they throw a big lead shield on your entire torso, before they took that photo of something way up in your mouth area? Yah, that's my point. If they're concerned about radiation to your body from a specific beam aimed at your cheek, what in the world is happening to that poor, compressed breast tissue every year we let them radiate it--no matter how minor a level that's supposed to be?! And what's the cumulative impact~ which of course, includes all those years of fear and worry? Yikes!!!
I've heard of individuals who were terrified of getting cancer, whether they had a hereditary predisposition for it or not. They went on strict macrobiotic diets, never touched junk food, chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes, etc., and they ended up succumbing to the damned disease! Why? They focused on it every single day of their life, and kept envisioning and dreading it!
I am not trying to dissuade you from caring for your own health in whatever manner seems correct for you. I am asking that you check-in with yourself about how you think about staying healthy and strong, and figure out what YOU need (or don't need) in order to have peace of mind about it! This is a free choice issue, and there's no right or wrong. Just start listening to your inner voice about this--and whatever you decide, don't let these choices be motivated by Fear (or you could end up regretting them).
I recently got some great news about prostate cancer procedures. This used to be a horrible surgery with substantial risks involved. I've marveled at how the medical profession could continue removing the prostate gland with such little concern for the man having this done! I've been outraged about this for years, thinking surely there must be a better, easier, less invasive way to remove this gland. Well, a colleague just had his prostate removed (2009) through his navel. Recovery time was practically non-existent, and he's fine! If you ask me, it's about time someone figured it out.
My dad used to say, "when you buy health insurance, you're betting that you'll get sick and need it~ and the insurance company is betting that you won't. How much sense does that make??" I guess the real question is, are you at all comfortable with gambling?
Modern medicine has developed wonderful, innovative techniques for saving lives, but "preventative" healthcare in the U.S. has become Big Business and tragically, you're paying for it with scans, tests and escalating insurance premiums! But the greatest cost to you, is that you're being programmed to live with constant levels of fear and anxiety about (God forbid) overlooking something that "might" some day, pose a threat to you. I hope this inspires you to think for yourself, and begin trusting your instincts more, so you can live life according to what's healthy, reasonable and right for you!"
"Dangers in Early Detection"
By H. Gilbert Welch
You feel well. You're only 60. Your PSA -- the blood test for prostate cancer -- is normal. Much to your chagrin, you learn of recent research that suggests you still might have prostate cancer. But the only way researchers know this is because they performed a more aggressive test -- placing a probe through the rectum of normal men and inserting a biopsy needle six, maybe 12 times to search for cancer in various parts of their prostate. Should this procedure be performed on you? Should it be performed on all healthy men?
This is American medical care today -- care increasingly directed toward the well.Ironically, the primary service we offer them is relentless testing to establish whether they are, in fact, sick. We screen for early forms of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, hepatitis, vascular disease and, of course, cancer. The conventional wisdom is that early detection improves health. But this assumption may be wrong.
Why? Because early disease detection means more people become patients.
Inevitably some will be treated needlessly and suffer as a result.
To understand this, you need to understand that each of us harbors early forms of disease. Even in middle age, many of us who feel well have evidence of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, hepatitis, vascular disease and cancer. Just because we harbor these early forms of disease doesn't mean that they will ever affect our health. Some diseases progress so slowly that people die of other causes long before the diseases generate symptoms. Other diseases may not progress at all. Unless we were tested, we'd never have known we were sick.
Prostate cancer is the classic example. Among men age 60, around half have microscopic evidence of prostate cancer if we look hard enough. Yet only four in 1,000 will die from prostate cancer in the next 10 years. How can this be? Because prostate cancer isn't just one disease: It's a spectrum of disorders. Some forms of prostate cancer grow very rapidly and kill men. Some grow slowly and men die of something else before the cancer ever causes symptoms. And others look like cancer under the microscope but never grow at all.
A little over a decade ago, doctors started looking hard for prostate cancer using the PSA and lots of needle biopsies. And we found a great deal: Roughly 2 million cases were diagnosed in this period -- almost a million more than would have been without the test.
Did prostate cancer screening help men? To be honest, we aren't sure about the net effect. There has been a small decline in the death rate from prostate cancer, but this may simply reflect that our treatments are better. While screening probably has helped a few men live longer, it has also clearly hurt others. Millions have been biopsied who otherwise wouldn't have been. Many with nonprogressive disease have been turned into cancer patients unnecessarily. Most have been treated, and many have suffered ill effects. A few have even had their lives shortened by treatment.
This is the reality of early detection. A few may be helped, because their disease is destined to cause problems and because early treatment is able to solve those problems in a way that later treatment cannot. But many simply are told earlier that they have a disease and gain nothing, because their disease could have been treated just as well later, when symptoms appeared. And others are hurt by treatment for a disease that would have otherwise never affected their health.
What's next? Consider CAT scans of the chest to look for lung cancer. During mass screenings in one region of Japan, CAT scans found 10 times as many patients with lung cancer as had been found a few years earlier using chest X-rays. Incredibly, nonsmokers were almost as likely to have lung cancer as smokers. Is smoking getting safer? Of course not. Everyone agrees that smoking is far and away the most important cause of lung cancer. The CAT scans were simply labeling some people as lung cancer patients who otherwise would never be affected by a few abnormal cells.
Why not treat these patients -- just to be safe? Because some people die from treatment. In the Mayo Clinic study comparing lung cancer screening (using chest X-rays) to standard care, more people in the screening group were told that they had lung cancer. It didn't help them live longer; in fact, slightly more people in that group died.
And some think we should scan the whole body. But the harder we look, the more we find. CAT scans of the chest lead more people to be told they have lung cancer, and there are even more abnormalities to find in the abdomen. As one radiologist who has read thousands of these scans put it, "With this level of information, I have yet to see a normal patient."
Millions of healthy Americans are being told that they are sick (or "at risk"). More are undergoing invasive evaluations with needles, flexible scopes and catheters. And more are taking drugs for early forms of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, hepatitis, vascular disease and cancer.
We need to start asking hard questions about whose interests are served by the relentless pursuit of disease in people who are well. Clearly it's good business -- for test manufacturers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies. And it's good for some doctors.
But is it in society's interest? Many suggest that it saves money by lowering the cost per patient. But the savings per patient (if they exist) are overwhelmed by the increased expense of having so many more to treat. Is it in the interest of sick patients? Absolutely not, as caring for the well increasingly distracts doctors from caring for the truly sick. And what about the well? Is it in their interest? Only they can decide -- after they have been informed that early detection is a double-edged sword.
[The book, "Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why" is written by H. Gilbert Welch. The writer is a professor of medicine in the Department of Veterans Affairs and Dartmouth Medical School.
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