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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Nowak: Reducing cancer deaths — progress slow

  • I recently read with interest an article by Doctor David Chan, MD, Oncologist, who was answering a question about where all of the millions of cancer research dollars go every year.
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  • I recently read with interest an article by Doctor David Chan, MD, Oncologist, who was answering a question about where all of the millions of cancer research dollars go every year.
    He started by saying that he had to admit "…that despite all the billions put into cancer research, the end results of preventing cancer and treating advanced cancer have been disappointing."
    He said that "Unlike the success in reducing deaths from heart attacks and stroke, progress in reducing deaths from cancer has been disappointingly slow. For a lot of cancers the treatments aren't giving us bang for the buck.
    Spending $100,000 to $200,000 a year to extend life for an additional three to six months may be very important to those individuals with cancer, but are a very poor return on investment for society. It's not sustainable, and that's why a lot of national health care programs won't pay for drugs."
    The same article in Quora goes on to quote Dr. Margaret Cuomo (sister of New York Gov. Cuomo) who wrote about her perspective in "A World Without Cancer".
    She says that we have spent billions over the last 40 years in the war on cancer. "The National Cancer Institute has spent some $90 billion on research and treatment.
    "Some 260 nonprofits in the United States have dedicated themselves to cancer – more than the number established for heart disease, AIDS, Alzheimer's and stroke combined. Together they have budgets that top $2.2 billion."
    Her answer is that "Simply put, we have not adequately channeled our scientific know-how, funding, and energy into a full exploration of the one path certain to save lives: prevention." She explores the many billions of dollars in the National Cancer Institutes' 2012 budget that are for research and the mere millions set aside for prevention and control.
    Ironically, the NCI states in that same budget report that "Much of the progress against cancer in recent decades has stemmed from successes in the areas of prevention and control."
    "For the most part…" she says, "…cancer is a disease of aging and we are not close to solving that problem." She also asks us to accept some personal responsibility as the leading cause of cancer death is lung cancer and in fact, "Lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined and that an estimated 160,340 Americans will die from lung cancer in 2012."
    Stopping smoking could reduce the "…death rate from cancer by 85 percent," and it is also "… pretty clear that about one-third of all cancers are related to being overweight." We also "…know that hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer and HPV is the leading cause of cancers of the cervix, anal canal, and contributes to many head and neck cancers. But 50 percent of Americans have not been vaccinated for hepatitis B, and the HPV vaccine rate is even lower."
    Page 2 of 2 - Cancer drives also have an effect on local communities that raise the funds that leave the community and go to the nonprofits and corporations that are doing the research.
    Maybe at some point we need to step up the amount of local money going to better sidewalks and running paths and other attributes like tennis courts, swimming pools, soccer fields, etc. to help the community stay in shape.
    We also need to really teach kids not to start smoking.
    Based on what I have read, although it makes us feel good to donate to cancer causes, it might be money better spent on local efforts to help prevent those habits that cause cancer in the first place.
    We also need to ensure that people get their vaccines to prevent those other cancers. It seems that those are smart places to spend our cancer-fighting dollars.
    Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.
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