‘Oh my dear your cancer is in its 3rd stage, Alas !!! Had you come earlier….’ this is what most of the oncologists tell patients who had been detected cancer for the first time.
|Early Detection is a myth to be buried|
Diagnose And Treat Early (DATE) is a lofty but outdated concept, but almost every cancer specialist adheres to it today. While looking deceptively simple, it is impossible to exercise in practice and has proved totally useless and misleading.
Nearly fifty years have passed since DATE concept came into the light. But it failed to defeat cancer. To take but one example, the authenticated statistics are that breast cancer, accepted worldwide as the most assessable and easily detectable among all the common cancers, so far, remains undefeated. Breast cancer death rates in the advanced countries in general and in the USA in particular have been increasing continuously in these fifty years. These countries having all the ultramodern earliest detection technologies (like mammography) and advanced methods of treatment, so far, have failed to cure cancers in general and breast cancer in particular.
1956: Harden Jones, from an extensive survey of varied cancers, concluded: “It is most likely that, in terms of life expectancy, the chance of survival is no better with than without treatment, and there is the possibility that treatment may make the survival time of cancer cases less.”
1975: Logan of WHO, who from a global survey of breast cancer summarized that despite all the therapeutic radicalism, the mortality had not declined and had possibly increased, reinforced Jones’s 1956 assessment in 1975. Thomas Dao, of the department of breast surgery, Roselwell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo, put it more explicitly: “Despite improved surgical techniques, advanced methods in radiotherapies, and widespread use of chemotherapies, breast cancer mortality has not changed in last seventy years”.
1998: The Newsweek on its 30th November 1998 issue, nearly three decades after Dao’s assertion, depicted the utter failure of US oncologists in the following words: “In the three decades since president Nixon hauled off and declared war on cancer, America has spent billions pursuing better ways to kill malignant tumors… Yet our cancer death rate is roughly the same today as it was in 1970. Despite the best efforts of surgeons and oncologists, Americans die of breast, colon and prostate cancer at five to thirty times the rate of people in many parts of the world.”
Breast cancer, one of the most amenable tumors to self-examination, as a paradigm, typifies the utter failure of cancerology. Only a powerful movement can compel oncologist to accept this ugly truth. Take it for granted that oncologist will never speak the truth about their zero-achievements in the battle against cancer in general and breast cancer in particular.
Early diagnosis / treatment for a cancer is a myth to be buried. Each cancer, before it bothers you, or your doctor, has been with you for a fairly long time, ranging from two and a half years to seventeen years. Each and every cancer has its own latency period. The period between the initiation of a cancer and its clinical detection is called the latency period of cancer.
Why cancer can never be diagnosed early? Primarily because of its latency period, cancer never causes any dis-ease to its host for a fairly long time. Thus the host never seeks ease from it. By the time a cancer presents itself to the clinicians, it is many-cells-strong, and usually many-sites-strong. A cancer of just one cubic millimeter (mm) is worth a million cells and probably that is the earliest (theoretically speaking) possible cancer you can detect. What the clinician looks for, or can look for, is the formation of a lump, popularly called a tumor. The acceptance of the tumor as the diagnosis is ipso facto the admission of the diagnostic defeat. It tantamounts to noticing only the proverbial tip of an iceberg.
Nearly four decades ago, Roe, F.J.C concluded: The clinician, even if he diagnoses cancer at the earliest possible stage, is dealing only with the late stages of a disease process. During the same time, the New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious US medical journal, crisply commented in its editorial: “Early is an adjective of time – not of size, dissemination or clinical manifestations. Yet, enslaved by medical semantics, too many people equated early with small, localized, and asymptomatic (or minimally productive of symptoms)”. Finally we should not forget that a cancer cell is a normal cell which has started behaving cancerously.
Thus, there is a very big “if” associated with DATE concept of cancer. “If you succeed in treating a patient you can claim you exercised DATE; if you fail, you can always say that the treatment was sought so late. Surely, the earliness of a cancer lies in the lateness of a patient’s death.
Thus, the blame for the failure of cancer treatment goes to patient. Oncologist don’t have any responsibility. “In no other disease does the patient himself/herself bear so large a share of responsibility. In no other disease does the patient influence the outcome to such a great degree”.
Yet, even the lay can compel a learned oncologist, to accept the neglected truths about cancer, provided he/she has the opportunity to know these truths. Worthlessness of the so-called DATE concept can be had from the following fact: Paul McCartney’s legendry wife Linda was advised to have six-monthly mammography. She followed this advice. After twelve years (i.e. after 23rd screening) her pre-cancer was detected. Her breast was chopped and she was declared cancer-free. Within six months, she was again detected having terminal stage liver cancer. Therapeutic treatment was applied. She died a very painful death within a year.