Increasing your chance of surviving cancer

Cancer Research UK reports that; today we have double the chance than we had in the early 1970’s of surviving for 10 years after being diagnosed with cancer.  In effect this demotes being diagnosed with many different types of cancer from a death sentence to a chronic disease, which sounds like excellent news.

But managing people with the disease could cynically be viewed by some, as the ideal business model for large pharmaceutical companies who charge very high prices for their drugs and have an interest in keeping patients on them for as long as possible.  Only last week, Sky reported on a mother of two, who has been refused a proven treatment for breast cancer – the drug Kadcyla – after NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) judged it too expensive at £90,000 per patient. Kadcyla is made by Roche who reported a £8bn profit last year.

Is it time that the Government and the health service threw their weight – and taxpayer’s money – behind a proper prevention strategy? Better education on food for schools and young families and even financial help to ensure everyone at least has a healthy diet which could eliminate many of the diseases that are crippling us both as individuals and as a country.

After prevention, early diagnosis is the next best action for achieving results but it is disappointing that after the initial success of the 2012 government campaign urging people with persistent coughs to go to their GPs, which saw lung cancer diagnosis rates jump by nearly 10%, the policy has not been followed up.  Apparently, this is due to funding issues.

Research also shows that it is not all down to early diagnosis. Even in areas where the NHS does well in terms of detection (breast and colon cancers to name two) survival rates are still low, which suggests there is an issue with getting access to effective treatment and there are concerns that due to lack of funding, the NHS is lacking vital equipment, such as MRI scanners. This can mean there are problems with identifying how far the cancer has spread and, as a result, how effective the treatment can be.

As cancer sufferers survive longer it exposes the lazy practice of some cancer experts as ‘short termism’ with little or no attention paid to the medium to long-term side effects from chemo and radiation.  It is now recognized that in the long term some forms of chemo can badly affect the heart leading to complications …………….if the patient lives long enough.

On a personal note, I believe that during the procedure to remove my lung three years ago, my long-term survival probably wasn’t considered likely and therefore post op considerations were probably not considered relevant. Yet recently ailments, which can be attributed to the extraction of my lung, are beginning to show, affecting my skeleton and organs, which although is not a major problem, one that I believe may have been preventable.

Obviously removing a lung leaves a space, which encourages other organs to float around –  my heart moved approximately four inches to a higher position on the right hand side of my chest. This could potentially cause cardiovascular problems and its problems with adjoining blood supply in the future.

Furthermore, over a relatively short time the void fills with fluid, which later solidifies into a jelly and with a volume of approximately 2 litres, weighing around 5lb.  This extra weight on one side of my body knocks the natural balance out of kilter affecting my lower abdomen and causing my un-supported rib cage to rest on my stomach with potential digestive problems.

Also with additional weight constantly pulling down on the right hand side of my body is beginning to translate into a bad posture, which affects my neck and causes backache while over stretched shoulder tendons cause tennis elbow.

These problems could simply have been adverted at the time of the operation, by inserting a light-weight filling into the lung cavity.

Finally, the founding principles of our health service are based on the teachings of Hippocrates whose message was:

‘Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food’.

Sadly, the health service does not encourage this in their practices, with comfort food rather than healing food being dished out on their hospital wards.   We believe that good, safe, food is the way forward and should be available to everyone.