Cancer Screening: Does Early Detection Save Lives?
In 1971, President Nixon declared a “War on Cancer.” Since then, nearly every public health message about cancer stressed the importance of screening.
Public health organizations and cancer charities bombard us with the idea that “early detection” saves lives. Men and women. Young and old. Get screened for prostate cancer… breast cancer… colon cancer… skin cancer… and more.
It seems logical. The earlier you discover cancer, the more likely you are to survive the disease. Tens of millions of people have gone to their doctors’ offices for screening. Billions of dollars pour into the coffers of the cancer industry.
But does “early detection” save lives? Do the risks of cancer screening outweigh the benefits?
Apparently, the answer to both questions is no.
For years, orthodox medicine claimed that statistics were on their side. They pointed to an increasing “survival rate.” This proved that we were making progress in the fight against cancer. But let’s take a closer look…
Experts define a cancer “survivor” as someone who is still alive five years after diagnosis. Based on this definition, the number of survivors is going up. But not so fast…
We now have the technology to detect “cancers” that would have gone unnoticed before. And we are using this technology more than ever. That means we are diagnosing cancer at a much earlier stage. People are living longer after “diagnosis.” But they are not actually living any longer.
The age-adjusted death rate is a more reliable way to look at cancer. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, this statistic dropped just 5 percent from 1950 to 2005.1 That’s not a lot of progress for more than half a century of research and funding.
Mainstream health organizations are the staunchest defenders of cancer screening. But even these groups are starting to change their tune. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently updated their public messages regarding cancer screening. They even admit to overstating the benefits.2
Dr. Otis Brawley is the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society. In a New York Times article he states that, “American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated.”
But it’s worse than that. These organizations did not just exaggerate the benefits. They also hid the risks.
The late Dr. Joan Austoker was a “breast screening” expert. She worked for the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. She wrote the recommendations that this public health service gave to the public. But in an interview with The Sunday Times, Dr. Austoker admitted that the NHS actually hid vital information. This information proved that treatment for a certain cancer was unnecessary.3
“It was a mistake to withhold this information from women,” said Dr. Austoker.
No, it was not a “mistake.” It was unethical and fraudulent.
So, why are these organizations softening their stance? It’s simple. The facts have become too blatant to ignore. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, early stage breast cancer diagnoses have doubled. Yet, the number of cancers that have spread to other parts of the body have barely budged.4
You might wonder what the “risks” of cancer screening are. After all, “early detection” ought to be a good thing, right? Shouldn’t you know if there is a health concern you need to worry about?
The first risks to consider are “false positives.” The National Cancer Institute funded a study to estimate how often this happens in breast cancer screening. It determined that 61 percent of women who get annual mammograms for 10 years will receive a false positive.5 That means 610 healthy women (out of every 1,000) will be told they have cancer.
“You only have a few years to live.” Talk about devastating news.
The other major risk is over-diagnosis. This is when doctors treat small lesions or innocuous tumors as if they are imminently deadly. We now know that in most cases, these “cancers” would not spread or even cause harm.
Breast cancer screening is rife with over-diagnosis. Research shows that for every life saved, 10 women get treatment they don’t need.6 This often means chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments are costly. They can be debilitating. And they are potentially life-threatening. Other women choose to have one or both breasts removed. And all of this for a problem which did not even exist!
The American Cancer Society continues to state that a mammogram is “one of the best things a woman can do to protect her health.” But the facts suggest otherwise.
Mammograms deliver a very high dose of ionizing radiation. Just one mammogram can deliver as much radiation as 1,000 chest x-rays.7 And this blast of radiation is directed at highly sensitive breast tissues. Many experts claim that repeated annual breast cancer screenings are actually a major cause of breast cancer.
And millions of healthy women are being subjected to this risk unnecessarily. Doctors must screen 1,000 women over 50 for 10 years to avert just one death from breast cancer.
Or consider prostate cancer. For every 100 men diagnosed, about 70 have cancers that would never grow to harm them. The Agency for Healthcare Policy Research proved this in a study. It showed that men who had their prostate gland removed survived an average of 14 years after surgery. That sounds great. But what about men who elected “watchful waiting?” These men also lived an average of 14 years after diagnosis.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of men each year are subjected to aggressive treatments for prostate “cancer.” And what are the results of these costly treatments? Often it is impotence and incontinence.
It’s the same with skin cancer. A Dartmouth Medical School study showed that skin biopsies rose 250 percent between 1986 and 2009. And yet, during the same period, there was no change in the melanoma death rate or the incidence of advanced stage melanoma.8
Dr. Bernard Ackerman is a renowned dermatologist and director of the Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology in New York. He believes that dermatologists have gone too far. “There has been a mania for taking off these moles that are of no consequence,” says Ackerman. “We’re talking about billions and billions of dollars, based on hype.”
The over-diagnosis and over-treatment of early stage cancers leads to a huge number of unnecessary procedures. It also blurs our progress in the war on cancer. What matters is the number of deaths. And the massive push for early detection and conventional treatment has not reduced that number.
The orthodox approach to cancer is simply not working. In May of 1986, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine called the last 35 years of cancer research and treatment “a qualified failure.”
The report demanded an emphasis on prevention. It has been 25 years since this report came out. And yet, there is still no emphasis on prevention. This is despite the fact that our lifestyle and environment are responsible for 90 percent or more of all cases of cancer.9
Here’s the problem… Orthodox medicine has no incentive to focus on “prevention.” There’s no money in it. So, whether the screening involves cancer, cholesterol, diabetes, or any other disease, the objective is the same. Detect the symptoms earlier, so that more “treatments” can be given.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that early detection of disease cannot be useful. It can be. It should be a wakeup call to change your lifestyle, your environment and your diet. . And it should encourage you to do the things that have been proven to prevent and successfully treat that disease.
Unfortunately, mainstream medicine has failed on both of these counts.
But there are ways to treat cancer that are safe and highly effective. These treatments work with your body not against it. They support your immune system. And they use powerful natural medicines that your body recognizes and accepts… without debilitating side effects.
In the August issue of our monthly newsletter, Natural Health Dossier, we report on three natural cancer treatments. These therapies have been proven to work. They are supported by dozens of peer-reviewed studies. They cost only a fraction of the treatments offered by mainstream medicine. And their safety is unquestioned.
– 61% of women who get annual mammograms for 10 years will receive a false positive. Click to Tweet
– Out of 100 men diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, about 70 have cancers that would never grow to harm them. Click to Tweet