Imagine a World without Cancer

I just finished a new book (published by Rodale!) by Margaret I. Cuomo, MD, called A World without Cancer, and I highly recommend it. As a doctor, Cuomo is able to explain cancer—its origins in the body, its treatments, its potential cures, and the challenges of finding solutions—with a clarity that is refreshing and highly informative. Her answer? We can do better. And doing better starts with prevention.

While we’ve spent billions in research, and people have donated time and money, run races, and sold lemonade, it’s actually shocking and disturbing how little progress we’ve made. Oh, there are plenty of reasons, and Dr. Cuomo explains them all. But like the lady she is, she keeps the debate polite and the suggestions constructive.

It occurred to me while reading the book that we often use the word prevention differently. The government and insurance companies define prevention as early detection procedures, which fit very nicely into our current medical paradigm (pay for procedures, not results). This method often leads to expensive and painful treatments that are worse than the disease itself and which, for a cost of a million dollars, “might” extend a patient’s life for a few months. (Which, to me, begs the question of having a choice of four more months to live while being inundated with invasive treatments or a million dollars—which would you choose?)

I digress…to me, the more accurate definition of prevention is more like the one my grandfather had in mind when he launched Prevention magazine 62 years ago: staying healthy and not getting sick in the first place!

That sort of prevention is harder for hospitals and insurance companies to make money from! But it would make our quality of life better along the way. We would eat better, we’d play more, our environment would be cleaner, and it would be a heck of a lot easier to get around on bicycles.

Even so, I can’t help but wonder if we can ever eradicate cancer completely. For that, we’d have to go even deeper into prevention and heal the very things that cause people to harm themselves and each other, even when they do know better.

Take my mother, for instance. She died of breast cancer three years ago, after fighting it for over 20 years. She was not overweight. She ate healthfully. She kept active. But she drank. And now we know that drinking alcohol can cause cancer. Why did she drink? Was it the grief over my brother’s dying from AIDS that she never quite recovered from? Was it my father’s tragic death? Something caused her to need alcohol more than she needed to live, even though she believed she was fighting to live. While there is very strong evidence that drinking increases the risk of certain cancers, there is much less research (any?) on the impact of emotions on particular diseases.

While Americans prefer to avoid emotional responsibility and would rather look at external reasons and facts (logic and reason) in causation, I will go out on a limb and say something that the lovely Margaret Cuomo probably would not: If we lived by external facts and logic and reason alone, we would ALREADY have banned lawn chemicals, since they are KNOWN to cause childhood leukemia. And yet, none of that “cure for cancer” or “war on cancer” money is ever going to lobby to have lawn chemicals banned. No one wants to interfere with a man’s primal right to a weed-free lawn (or farm field, for that matter). Fear and denial are emotions, too.

I can imagine a world without cancer. But it would require all of us to think differently, act differently, and be less afraid of getting cancer and more afraid of accepting the status quo.



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7 Responses to Imagine a World without Cancer

  1. CAfarmer October 18, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    I’m with you Maria! Why do we “walk” “run” “swim” for the cure? We need to “race for the cause”, raising money for research that shows the real reasons why people get cancer (and other diseases).

  2. maria (farm country kitchen) October 18, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    I love that idea!!!!

  3. Donna in Delaware October 18, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Precisely! I’m all for prevention, the way that your grandfather thought about it Maria. I just don’t think that we will ever be cancer-free as long as there is money to be made (bottom line) for these companies touting their wares and inventions to supposedly make life better or easier, all the while killing us, and knowingly so.

  4. Erin October 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    It is very overwhelming to me when I think about how many cases of cancer could have been and could be avoided. The amount of carcinogens that are allowed in our food and personal care products is absolutely criminal. The fact that corperations are making millions of dollars from sickening most of the country is wrong and I don’t understand how it has been allowed this long. Once I learned all of this, I lost total faith in our government and have no respect for lobbyists and the crooked cogressman that they work with(and pay).
    I am particularly concerned for this generation of children who are starting from birth eating this frakenfood. I cringe at the thought of what our healthcare system is going to be like in 20 years…
    But! I am trying to think positively and I am hoping that if Prop 37 passes, the rest of the country will jump on board and GMOs will be ousted at last!

  5. Barbara October 21, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    Yes. I keep saying we need to find the causes of things rather than just treating the symptoms and calling that a ‘cure’, or treating cancer with very expensive, cancer-causing chemicals and calling it a cure. Senseless. While we try to make life easy, and get lazier, we pollute ourselves and our world. I know I will enjoy Dr. Cuomo’s book. Thanks for recommending it, Maria! I appreciate sensibility.

  6. Joyce October 24, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    It all begins with us, and our demands. As consumers we can stop buying products that have GMO products which now includes so much – soy products, corn, etc. I do hope that Prop 37 passes, that will make it easier for other states to make the same demands. As you educate the public then they will finally realize that our “modern diet” is tainted and without nutrition. I pray for a world without cancer and I think we are on the threshold of that happening, we just have to band together and make it happen, starting with what we eat daily.

  7. Rafael Montalvo October 24, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Thank you for keeping us iformed.

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