Angelina Jolie: Prophylaxis gone mad?
By Dr. Alison Adams, Contributor
Cancer: Early Detection
Angelina Jolie: Prophylaxis gone mad?
Angelina Jolie has recently chosen to go public about her decision to have her breasts removed prophylactically in light of the fact that she carries the BRCA1 gene that has been linked to the cancers that killed her maternal aunt and her mother.
Carriers of the BRCA1 gene reputedly stand a 60% chance of getting breast cancer and a 40% chance of getting ovarian cancer at some point in their lives.Jolie is now encouraging other women to get tested and follow her lead.
And all this because there is supposedly no effective (allopathic) treatment for such cancers.Plus, even in the presence of this gene, whether you develop cancer is still thought to be 90% determined by environmental factors (which you can control) rather than the lottery of genetics.
Jolie is understood to have had a radical double mastectomy followed later by reconstructive surgery with implants. Whilst Jolie will have had (for good or ill) access to the best surgeons money can buy, her advocating this approach for other women is troubling for a number of reasons.
First, any operation carries a risk. Although now relatively uncommon, dying on the operating table whilst having elective surgery isn’t a great option either. The consequences of surgery include the creation of scar tissue which can act to disrupt internal signalling in a number of ways in what are known asInterference Fields. And the surgery also creates of dams of scar tissue which permanently affect fluid flows within the body causing seemingly unrelated problems later according to Dr Harvey Bigelsen (seeBook Review: Doctors are More Harmful Than Germs).
Jolie opted to have some kind of implant and so has replaced some potentially problematic body tissue with a material totally alien to the body, thus exchanging one hazard for another.
Although Jolie’s childbearing days may be behind her, encouraging women who have yet to have their families to take this approach means that they will not be able to breastfeed their children with all the lifelong consequences for their offspring that implies.
Whilst prophylactically removing body parts that may potentially become diseased later is a solution of sorts, it is a pretty crude and horrific one. Where is this approach likely to end? In the removal of bowels to prevent bowel cancer or hearts to prevent heart disease?
Even being told by doctors that you carry the BRAC1 gene and that you almost certain to develop cancer at some point in the future may be enough to fulfil the prediction in what is known as the nocebo effect (the reverse of the placebo effect where negative predictions about health outcomes are lived out).
Finally, when this kind of ‘prophylaxis’ is required on a societal scale, it diverts resources and personnel from treating actual disease and injury and creates a ‘worried well’ where potentially only those with money can access such treatment.
The ‘War on Cancer’
It is now just over 40 years since President Nixon declared ‘The War on Cancer’ and since then cancer rates have continued to climb to the point where one in three older people and possibly half of all younger people can expect a diagnosis of cancer at some stage in our lives.
Cancer charities alone have poured over $4 trillion into the ‘War’ so far and continueto appeal for more money. We are always, it seems, promised the carrot of a cure tomorrow with the latest hope being that the emerging field ofgene therapy will hold the answers.It may or may not surprise you to know that after the initial fanfare, we never hear any more about most ‘breakthroughs’.
The latest Cancer Research UK charity advertisement below is typical of this way of thinking with cancer cast as the enemy to be defeated by yet more powerful weaponry (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery).
And this relentless PR campaign also leads to people becoming passive and waiting for the problem to be solved with some miracle drug or other intervention rather than becoming proactively involved in maintaining their own health.
This is all based upon several false premises the first of which being that cancer is a single entity. This is like grouping all infections (malaria, tuberculosis, the common cold, etc) together under the same banner and then looking for a single solution.
Second,cancer isn’t something that’s attacking you – it is the body’s best answer to the various toxins with which it is assaulted.
Putting these significant issues to one side, a big part of this ‘War’ involves the encouragement to pay regular visits to your doctor for screening for all types of cancer. Sojust how effective is this massive (and expensive) effort in detecting early tumours that might have gone on to claim a life?
Catching cancer early
The fact is that we all have cancerous cells in our body all of the time. They are produced constantly and also constantly dealt with by our immune system in health. In fact, estimates seem to vary between about 5,000 and a million cancerous cells being produced every day in the average body.
Sometimes too, small tumours may temporarily form and then be resorbed due to a variety of factors and we don’t know how common this is either. It may all be part of the body’s mechanism for maintaining health! Such early-stage tumours are thought to be broken down during periods of fever, but allopathic medicine now vigorously suppresses this natural process thus potentially thwarting this process (and possibly accounting for at least part of the rise in incidence).
No test is infallible, and all tests yield a significant proportion of false positive and false negative results and this takes on particular significance in relation to the detection of cancer.At best, most tests are only 95% accurate and that is when everything is executed perfectly.
When it comes to cancer, this means that one in every 20 people tested will be scared by a diagnosis and further aggressive treatment initiated when they don’t in fact, have the disease (false positive). And also that a significant proportion of those with cancer will be given the all clear erroneously (false negative).
If a patient is given a positive test result they will understandably befrightened (possibly mortally leading to the negative outcomes predicted), and the doctor(s) involved are obliged to do something which usually involves further invasive and/or costly testing. The patient also forever becomes a victim of whatever disease label they have been given.
Further, it is not only that some cancer screening tests may not be sensitive or reliable, but some may actually be causingthe very disease they are supposed to be preventing or detecting as in the case of mammography and breast cancer.
Breast cancer screening
The UK National Health Service (NHS) Breast Cancer Screening Programme was launched in 1988 and invites all women aged between 50 and 70 to mammography screening every three years. However, there has been an ongoing debate about the net benefits and harms of such screening for the past 10 years.This prompted the UK government and the charity Cancer Research UK to create an independent panel to launch a review of the controversial programme, the results of which werepublished in the Lancetin 2012.
The review found that whilst approximately 1,300 lives had been prolonged every year, up to 4,000 women had been treated unnecessarily for non-life threatening forms of the disease because of over-diagnosis. That isfor every life the programme extended,three women had been overdiagnosed and received aggressive and toxic treatment for a disease they didn’t have – with all that implies for the individuals and families involved.
The report calculated that for every 10,000 British women aged 50 years invited for mammography screening for the next 20 years, 43 deaths from breast cancer would be prevented and 129 cases of breast cancer would be overdiagnosed.That is for every 70,000 screenings (assuming attendance every three years) just 2 deaths a year would be prevented per 10,000 women screened.
“As the review shows, some cancers will be diagnosed and treated that would never have caused any harm.”
Dr Harpal KumarMA MEng MBA DSc, Cancer Research UK
A couple of recent studies from the States have reached similar conclusions. A National Cancer Institute study concluded that women should not have annual mammograms after all, given that they have a 60 percent error rate!
And, at about the same time, areview of the last 30 years of mammography screeningfound that the programme had done little to prevent deadly cancers spreading and had lead to the treatment of one million women who had cancers that most likely would never have posed a threat to their lives.
“Our study raises serious questions about the value of screening mammography .. and although no one can say with certainty which women have cancers that are overdiagnosed, there is certainty about what happens to them: they undergo surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy for 5 years or more, chemotherapy, or (usually) a combination of these treatments for abnormalities that otherwise would not have caused illness.”
Study authors DrArchie Bleyer, MD, and Dr H. Gilbert Welch, MD, MPH
In fact, although screening is leading to the apparent sky rocketing in the incidence of breast cancer rates, the underlying rates of breast cancer may not be increasing. For example, although there has been a doubling in the number ofearly-stage cancers detected since mammograms were introduced, cases of late-stage cancer have actually fallen by 8 percent, from 102 to 94 cases per 100,000 women.
Nearly two-thirds of breast lumps detected are attributable to mammography and irradiating highly sensitive breast tissue every one to three years over a period of decades may actually be causing the very disease it is supposed to be detecting.
Prostate cancer screening
According to the American Cancer Society, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives and one in 36 men will die of the disease.The first line of prostate cancer screening often involves assessing blood samples for elevated levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) which is taken as a marker for prostate cancer and/or prostate hypertrophy (enlargement).
However recent research byDr. Harry de Koning and his team at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam in the Netherlands has determined thaton average, annual screening using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing would add just three healthy weeks to a man’s life.
And here’s the thing: most men over a certain age are found to have a prostate tumour at autopsy. In one study of 1,641 routine autopsies prostate carcinoma was identified in 10% of cadavers, but it was only the cause or contributing cause of death in just 2%. Even of those individuals with carcinoma, 83% had died of other, unrelated causes. So although prostate cancer in young men can be aggressive, it is rarely life threatening in older individuals.
“We’re coming to learn that some cancers – many cancers, depending on the organ – weren’t destined to cause death.”
Dr. Barnett Kramer MD MPH, Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention
The researchers determined that for every 1,000 men getting annual screening in their late fifties and sixties, there would be nine fewer prostate cancer deaths, 247 extra negative biopsies performed and 41 additional men getting prostate surgery or radiation. That is four times as many men would have unnecessary surgery and all that entails (impotence, incontinence, chronic diarrhoea, etc) as ever had cancer.
“Some people – we don’t know how many – would actually come out negative, they would lose (quality years), and other people would gain. Therefore it’s hard to make one rule that would apply to everybody.”
Professor H. C. Sox, Department of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
In fact, the United States Preventative Services Task Force has now recommended that healthy men should decline PSA testing for prostate screening after a US study showed that men who were screened regularly actually had a higher death rate from prostate cancer than those who didn’t have the test at all.
“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer.There is moderate or high certainty that the service has no benefit or that the harms outweigh the benefits.”
The efficacy of cervical smears
The United States Preventative Services Task Force alsosuggested that annual cervical smear testing for women did more harm than good given that the error rate can be up to 60 percent. False positive tests were leading to harmful procedures and tests, and false negative tests were missing existing cancers up to 45 percent of the time.
Chest x-rays for lung cancer
A recent UK advertising campaign encouraged people who have had a cough for 3 weeks to see their doctors in case they have lung cancer. No doubt a persistent cough can be an early warning sign of lung cancer, but at 3 weeks it can also (and much more likely) be a sign of what is known as a protracted cold. However, if you pitch up at your doctor’s office concerned about your cough they will be obliged to screen you for lung cancer (they would be found negligent if they didn’t).
However, the American National Cancer Institute now says that chest X-rays do absolutely nothing to prevent lung cancer deaths and should not be performed on apparently healthy patients.
Another study which compared the efficacy of X-rays to CT scans in detecting lung cancer found that CT scans did lower the death rate from lung cancer by 20 percent in heavy smokers, but that the false-positive rate for CT scans is off the charts at a whopping 95 percent!
The illness business
It is really important to understand thatillness is a business.Most people are too kind (ornaïve) to consider that pharmaceutical companies see disease as a market opportunity or growth area, but that is exactly what they do. In particular, cancer detection and treatment are huge money spinners.
And, according to the allopathic illness business model in order to be ‘healthy’ you need to have between 30 and 60 vaccinations starting practically at birth with annual seasonal flu shots thereafter, have regular screenings for elevated cholesterol, raised blood pressure (probably worth it but can also be done at home with an inexpensive monitor) and all kinds of cancers.If a diagnosis is made using the screening tools outlined above, then treatment will be initiated with is often dreadfully expensive and potentially very destructive.
You’ll be pleased to know that theDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire cited above has over250 active cancer research projects on the go led by 135 research scientists supported by more than $68 million in grants each year from federal and other sources. They built a newfacility costing $228 million 25 years ago, and this increased in size by 40% in 2004 and another 41,000 square feet was added in 2010.
No doubt the researchers are all good and clever people and mostly sincere in their motives and my criticism is not of them, but of the paradigm within which they function.
I am reminded of the debate about the death of Abraham Lincoln. He had some kind of swelling of the throat and several of the best physicians of the day were called to his bedside. They deployed the accepted treatment of the time – bloodletting – and their heroic efforts resulted in the president being deprived of a total of 5 pints of blood over 4 successive bloodletting sessions. The sentiment amongst the doctors present that he had died in spite of their efforts, but the debate rages to this day as to whether he was killed by his physicians or not.
I fear in retrospect that we will look back on the current approach of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy (cut, poison and burn) for the treatment of cancer with the same sort of incredulity we might reserve for such an approach.
“A solution to cancer would mean the termination of research programmes, the obsolescence of skills, the end of dreams of personal glory. Triumph over cancer would dry up contributions to self-perpetuating charities and cut off funding from Congress, it would mortally threaten the present clinical establishments by rendering obsolete the expensive surgical, radiological and chemotherapeutic treatments in which so much money, training and equipment is invested.”
Gary Null and Robert Houston
“Everyone should know that most cancer research is largely a fraud and that the major cancer research organisations are derelict in their duties to the people who support them.”
Sir Linus Pauling PhD (Two-time Nobel Prize winner)
Another aspect of all this screening for disease that is rarely discussed is that the individual becomes disease- rather than health-focussed. A neighbour with a track record of numerous breast lumps was describing her mounting anxiety as her biannual mammography examination approaches and her relief when she is given the all-clear. However, I can’t help but wonder if her eager attendance and her anxiety about the issue is actually creating the very problem she is so keen to avoid.
Two older natural health colleagues were describing visits to the doctor recently. One was forced at attend after a couple of decades of active avoidance by the development of a dental abscess. The doctor was keen to claim all the extra payments due (in the UK) for all the various screening tests and was running down a computer monitor of screening options ticking boxes. The other was compelled to attend her general physician for some kind of insurance and found the doctor observing that she looked a little flushed (after having had to strip off hurredly and get dressed again) and asked her if she would like some HRT?
As when you lose your faith in the church you don’t go in and have an argument with the priest – you simply stop buying what they are selling and so it is with medical care.
I don’t know what my cholesterol levels are and I don’t care. I think it is all nonsense and damaging nonsense at that. I have declined all invitations to attend for screenings for over a decade now and intend to stay out of my doctor’s office for as long as I possibly can. If I have something fatal and terrible, I would like to be given pain relief at the end but nothing much else.
You are a consumer of the medicine that Big Pharma offers (whether you know it or not). Your doctor is being financially rewarded for attempting to find disease and a market for their drugs.
I simply don’t want anything they do. I don’t want their tests. I don’t want their drugs and I don’t want their surgery. I believe in the healing power of my body given the right materials and sufficient rest and exercise. And I absolutely wouldn’t take some supposedly prophylactic drug let alone surgically remove body parts.
Allopathic medicine regards death as the ultimate failure, but there are worse things than dying and living for any extended period of time without your faculties or body parts is a kind of living hell. I have witnessed the heroic efforts of medical teams to prevent people dying a natural death and instead living a long, protracted death.
I am currently in the process of drawing up a Living Will and I have been really clear with everyone concerned – ‘Let me go’. Specifically don’t bring me back to be infirm. Having experienced a long, slow descent into infirmity once in my life I definitely pray that the end comes quickly the next time around.