By: Kelly Forbis, EC Scholar and Honors College Freshman
In 1971, President Richard Nixon and Congress declared a War on Cancer in the United States[i]. Ever since this war was established in the 70’s, Americans have put a spotlight on cancer and on funding for its treatment. To date, over $105 billion has been spent on cancer research by the federal government alone but with little progress to show; cancer rates are still increasing[ii]. Why has this funding failed? What can we do to make progress?
The most popular forms of cancer treatment, and subsequently the ones with the most funding, include different drugs that involve radiation treatment or chemotherapy. Radiation treatment uses high-energy waves and electron emission to blast through cancerous growths as well as any other cells in its path. Chemotherapy was discovered in the 50’s, and it essentially poisons cancerous cells while damaging healthy cells, too[iii]. The body can become fatigued fighting the cancer while replenishing healthy cells. Both treatments destroy benign cells in the body. After 45 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and a war with little evidence to show that we are on the winning side, it may be time for Americans to try a different and more effective approach. Current treatment plans for cancer patients need to be altered adequately to ensure that cancer is no longer a leading cause of death in those under 85 in America.
In order to see how America and the rest of the world should reevaluate cancer treatments, it is important to look at the case study of Mr. James ‘Rhio’ O’Connor and the benefits of his treatment choices. Rhio was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a very serious and dangerous cancer. First of all, diagnosis of this cancer is difficult because the symptoms are similar to common diseases and ailments, like coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. The number one cause of mesothelioma is prolonged asbestos exposure. Although the cancer is not often diagnosed until its latter stages, there are many treatment options after diagnosis. Surgery, chemotherapy, and a variety of other medications are the most popular treatments, which are also common treatments for most cancers. To learn more about mesothelioma and its treatment options, visit http://survivingmesothelioma.com.
Mesothelioma in its most dangerous form is known to kill patients within months. Because there is no cure for cancer, patients are usually given a variety of treatment options best suited for their prognosis. Sometimes, when patients take the road less traveled, miraculous things can happen, like in Rhio’s case. By taking his own personalized treatment plan, Mr. O’Connor outlived his mesothelioma prognosis over six years, which was much longer than medical experts estimated with their treatment options. Through a combination of vitamins, minerals, vegetables, fruits, fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes, herbs, a healthy diet, and mind-body medicine, Rhio lived with an incurable cancer.
Many of the alternate treatments that Rhio used are conventionally used for cancer prevention. Why have they been proven for cancer prevention but not cancer treatment? Most patients do not want herbs, oranges or spinach to heal their ailments. They look for pills and scans and other treatments that appear more scientific or modern. In order for alternative cancer treatments to become mainstream, they must be marketable to the general public. The pharmaceutical world is a business. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are more marketable, which is why these treatments get more funding. When it costs over $400 million to bring a new cancer drug to the market, roadblocks are established to fund remedies like Rhio’s that are not as easily reimbursed but may be just as (or more) effective than traditional treatments.
In order for pharmaceutical companies to stay in business, they must produce marketable yet effective drugs. There is not a way to control or monopolize the vitamin and mineral market like what is done with drugs, so pharmaceutical companies will not capitalize on marketing such natural remedies because it would hurt their business. This ends up hurting the consumer because patients end up paying for expensive drugs that are FDA-approved but may not be as effective as the non-marketed treatments available. We do not need to point fingers and blame pharmaceutical companies for wanting to uphold and sustain their businesses or blame doctors for using the FDA-approved treatment plans because it is their job. However, it is the responsibility of those who know about alternative therapies to make sure that alternative therapies are well-known for those who could possibly benefit.
We will never know if alternative therapies are better treatments if they do not get the funding for research or the attention they need. The best way to introduce alternative therapies to the market is to give the options to patients. Pharmaceutical companies are not likely to help out with such funding to prove the effectiveness of alternative treatments that will compete with their business. However, the more alternative treatments are proven to be successful, the more the general public will want to use and fund their research. We will never win the war on cancer until we win the war against drugs that hook consumers with modern marketability yet are not proven to be more effective than other methods.
If multiple treatment options are available for patients, doctors and patients should be able to choose their own personalized treatment options. It is proven that those who are given choices tend to be happier with the outcome of their choice rather than not being in control. By not educating patients about alternative treatment options, they are stuck in a situation where they have no control over the ammunition to fight the war on cancer in their own bodies. After patients make their treatment choices, it is more likely that they will fully dedicate themselves to those choices because they chose what they have the most faith in. Also, by giving patients the education to make intelligent choices about treatment options, it gives them the idea that they are in control of a very uncontrollable disease. By allowing different treatment options for patients, it gives a greater patient satisfaction and quality of life, which can boost mood, decrease stress, and allow for potentially quicker healing. By educating patients about alternative treatment options, we are improving their health, giving them freedom of choice, and opening up the doors for others to follow in their footsteps and survive the war on cancer.
‘If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.’- Thomas Jefferson[v].
[i] Spector, Reynold. ‘The War on Cancer A Progress Report for Skeptics.’ CSI. January 1, 2010. Accessed December 19, 2014. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/war_on_cancer_a_progress_report_for_skeptics/.
[ii] ‘Cancer Research Funding.’ National Cancer Institute. September 12, 2014. Accessed January 25, 2015. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/NCI/research-funding.
[iii] ‘Treatment Types.’ Types of Cancer Treatment. January 1, 2015. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/treatmenttypes/.
[iv] West, Jack. ‘Mesothelioma Cancer.’ Mesothelioma Cancer. January 1, 2015. Accessed January 25, 2015. http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/.
[v] Null, Gary. ‘War on Health.’ LifeExtension.com. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2014. http://www.lef.org/Lpages/2014/waronhealth/index?utm-source=INFEML-130206&utm-medium=email&utm-term=WarOnHealth&utm-content=LinkBody&utm-campaign=INB301E&sourcecode=INB301E.