Health and Nutrition
Interesting and important article and video links
Mammography Screening Questioned by Roni Caryn Rabin
Breast Cancer Sells by Lucinda Marshal
Gardasil: Our Best Option? by Ellie Blalock, WIFP
Article and Video Links
November 28, 2012: "Ignoring the Science on Mammograms" NYT Blog by David Newman, MD
November 21, 2012: "Mammograms lead to overtreatment, do little to curb late-stage breast cancers, study concludes" Washington Post article
August 25, 2012: "Big Chem, Big Harm?" by Nicholas Kristof http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/kristof-big-chem-big-harm.html
August 6, 2012 -- Study: Chemotherapy can backfire and boost cancer growth http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/06/study-chemotherapy-can-backfire-and-boost-cancer-growth/
"The Best Breast Tests: The Promise of Thermography" -- by Christiane Northrup, MD
July 19, 2012
This well researched article indicates the powerful position drug companies play in our health-care system -- and some of the serious dangers.
"The multibillion-dollar rise and fall of the anemia drugs illustrates how the economic incentives embedded in the U.S. health-care system can make it not only inefficient but also potentially deadly."
Feb. 3, 2012 - Feminist Peace Network on Komen For The Cure. Excerpt:"Over the years, Komen has accepted massive support from corporations that make all manner of products that have been linked to cancer and hawked all manner of pink stuff with cancer-related ingredients. They have hammered about the need to be aware and get annual mammograms even while study after study has questioned this recommendation (and oh yeah, they have accepted contributions from the companies that make mammography equipment)." - read full
Was my doctor loyal to me, or to the drug companies? article - Dec. 19, 2011
Videos that are important for those concerned about cancer:
Video: Suzanne Somers talks about the dangers of mammograms and chemotherapy - and the natural alternatives. In this video Knockout Somers talks about her newest book, Knockout, to help people navigate the life-and-death world of cancer and increase your odds of survival.
and one in the January 2012 issue of Scientific Amerian on mammograms: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=weighing-the-positives&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_HLTH_20120103
A must watch:
Dying To Have Known - Film on the effectiveness of the Gerson Therapy, a long-suppressed natural cancer cure. And more! https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DoUl7F7dWdE
Gerson Therapy website: http://www.gersonmedia.com/
Scientists Warn Chemicals May Be Altering Breast Development, June 22, 2011 Scientific American article
Serious Surgical Mistakes Persist, Despite Safety Rules, June 21, 2011 NPR Health Blog
Roundup Birth Defects: Regulators Knew World's Best-Selling Herbicide Causes Problems, New June 9, 1011 Huffington Post article
Our Big Pig Problem. The U.S. should follow Denmark and stop giving farm animals low-dose antibiotics. March 30, 2011 Scientific American article
The Future of Food, a documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia. Excellent independent film. http://www.thefutureoffood.com/
American Cancer Society: The World's Wealthiest "Nonprofit" Institution http://www.preventcancer.com/losing/acs/wealthiest_links.htm
Tip on how to recognize genetically modified and organic foods
Eighty percent of all processed foods in the US are genetically modified. Many countries in the European Union have been banning GM products and produce (including Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg).
The FDA does not require genetically modified food to be labeled. However, the PLU code does give some information:
For conventionally grown fruit, (grown with chemicals inputs), the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers. Organically grown fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 9. Genetically engineered (GM) fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8.
A conventionally grown banana would be: 4011
An organic banana would be: 94011
A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be: 84011
Blogs do help circulate important issues.
“What women are not told is that for every woman whose life is saved by breast cancer screening, up to 10 healthy women are given diagnoses — and, often, surgery — for a cancer that is so slow-growing it would never have threatened a woman’s life."
Written By: RONI CARYN RABIN
Source: New York Times
The conventional wisdom about breast cancer screening is coming under sharp attack in Britain, and health officials there are taking notice.
They have promised to rewrite informational fliers about mammography after advocates and experts complained in a letter to The Times of London that none of the handouts “comes close to telling the truth” — overstating the benefits of screening and leaving out critical information about the harms.
What women are not told, the letter said, is that for every woman whose life is saved by breast cancer screening, up to 10 healthy women are given diagnoses — and, often, surgery — for a cancer that is so slow-growing it would never have threatened a woman’s life.
“The culture is just that mammography is such a very sensible thing to do, so you chug along and have it done,” said one of the signers, Hazel Thornton, in a telephone interview.
Mrs. Thornton, 75, said she became disenchanted with routine screening more than 15 years ago, after a mammogram identified ductal carcinoma in situ, a noninvasive breast cancer that often does not progress. She had a lumpectomy, but was offered such a confusing array of treatment options that she realized doctors knew little about how aggressively to treat this kind of cancer.
“You don’t know about all the uncertainty until you’re one of the unlucky ones, and it happens to you,” she said.
The idea that mammography may do more harm than good may be alien to many American women. The prevention message has emphasized that screening protects women from breast cancer, and one survey of 479 women found that only 7 percent were aware that some cancers grow so slowly that even without treatment they will not affect a woman’s health.
A 2006 analysis by the Nordic Cochrane Center collaborative, an independent research and information center based in Copenhagen, found that for every 2,000 women age 50 to 70 who are screened for 10 years, one woman will be saved from dying of breast cancer, while 10 will have their lives disrupted unnecessarily by overtreatment. The figures were cited in the letter to The Times.
Julietta Patnick, the director of cancer screening programs for the British National Health Service, said the patient handout was being revised and added that information about overdiagnosis might be added.
But in a telephone interview, she dismissed the Cochrane figures as inaccurate. British studies, she said, show that the ratio of lives saved to lives unnecessarily disrupted is more like one to one.
“We know, from statistics, that there are cancers diagnosed through screening that wouldn’t otherwise have been diagnosed — because the woman dies of something else first, because she might get run over by a bus, or she might have a heart attack, or she might live to 90 and it would just sit there, and she wouldn’t have died of breast cancer,” Ms. Patnick said.
But the problem is, “You don’t know who that woman is,” she continued. “You just know that statistically, she exists.”
Experts agree that under a microscope, slow-growing cancers look no different from more aggressive ones, so it is impossible to know which ones can be left untouched.
The author of the Cochrane analysis, Dr. Peter C. Gotzsche, another signer of the British letter, has written an alternative version of a patient handout for women considering mammography. It starts off by saying, “It may be reasonable to attend breast cancer screening with mammography, but it may also be reasonable not to attend.”
Women in the United States are screened much more rigorously than women in Britain, with annual mammography starting at 40. British women start at 50, and get a mammogram once every three years.
Dr. Ned Calonge, chairman of the United States Preventive Services Task Force, says mammography has been oversold to American women.
“The expectation of women is that ‘If I get screened, I won’t get breast cancer,’ ” he said. “I hear that women will say: ‘How can I have breast cancer? I always get my mammogram.’ ”
In fact, Dr. Calonge went on, early detection may not make a difference in survival for many women.
“Some women would have the same outcomes, whether the cancer is detected clinically or by mammography,” he said. “And there are women whose cancer is so aggressive we cannot detect it early enough to make a difference in mortality.”
An expert panel that reviewed the evidence on annual mammography for the task force in 2002 downgraded the recommendation for annual screens to “recommended” from “strongly recommended.” That review raised some of the same concerns mentioned by the critics in Britain: the high incidence of false-positive scares that cause anxiety yet turn out to be nothing serious, and the potential overtreatment of ductal carcinoma in situ and other “indolent” cancers. The panel also expressed concern about the potential for harm from exposure to radiation during the scans.
Mammography is more effective in older women. But even among women 50 and over, the panel concluded, only one death would be prevented after 14 years of observing more than 800 women who had undergone screening.
“That’s a hefty number of women” who must be screened to derive a benefit, Dr. Calonge said.
Similarly, studies about prostate screening for men concluded this month that the P.S.A. blood tests save few lives while leading to unnecessary treatment with potentially serious complications.
Despite the task force’s reservations, most medical societies endorse annual mammography, as does the American Cancer Society. Robert Smith, director of cancer screening for the society, says he believes overdiagnosis is minimal at best, and only 10 percent of invasive cancers found through mammography are harmless and will never be life-threatening.
“I think this is another example of, ‘Here is something your doctor knows and isn’t telling you,’ ” Dr. Smith said. “This is a debate between people who see the glass half full or the glass half empty.”
“Breast cancer screening is a good part of a preventive health care plan,” he continued. “It’s not perfect.”
Ultimately, women have to make their own decision about whether to be screened, said Dr. Lisa M. Schwartz, an associate professor at Dartmouth Medical School, who is co-author of “Know Your Chances” (University of California, 2008), a book about how to interpret health statistics and risk.
“You’re not crazy if you don’t get screened, and you’re not crazy if you do get screened,” said Dr. Schwartz, who also signed the letter to The Times. “People can make their own decision, and we don’t need to coerce people into doing this.
“There is a real trade-off of benefits and harms. Women should know that. There’s no question on one count: if you get screened, it’s more likely you’ll have a diagnosis of breast cancer.”
Breast Cancer Sells
By Lucinda Marshall, AlterNet. Posted October 24, 2007. Thanks to AlterNet for publishing this great article and to Lucinda Marshall for writing it!
October is an awareness month for breast cancer and domestic violence. Yet media coverage shows we'd rather be aware of breasts, even sick ones, than talk about abuse.
October means falling leaves, ghosts and goblins, and pink, lots of Pepto-Pink as we observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). From Campbell's Soup to Breast Cancer Barbie, it seems as if just about everyone has jumped on the pinkified bandwagon. And although October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), we'd much rather be aware of breasts, even sick ones, than talk about black eyes and things that aren't supposed to go on behind closed doors. That point is reflected in women's magazines, which devote much more space in their October issues to breast cancer than they do to domestic violence.
Of nine publications that I recently found on a grocery store magazine rack, all of which advertised breast cancer articles on the covers of their October issues, only two also contained coverage of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and mentioned that on their covers).* And, what's worse, of the coverage dedicated to breast cancer, much of it was offensive, superficial, misleading, or flat-out wrong.
This year there is even called Beyond Breast Cancer that cheerfully proclaims that there are "10 Good Things About Breast Cancer." Who knew? And just what are the pluses of getting this dreaded disease? According to the bubblegum-colored magazine, one perk is a pair of new boobs that "will face the horizon, not the South Pole.' Better yet, they will be paid for by insurance. Oh, and you get lots of cards and flowers.
Meanwhile, both Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day give incorrect information about mammograms. Good Housekeeping claims that "[N]o one disputes that all women 50 and over should be screened annually." Yet physicians in different countries disagree on how often women over 50 should be screened. While doctors in the United States recommend annual mammograms, those in Europe say every two to three years. In Australia, where a study out last year shed significant doubt on the extent to which mammograms save lives, the recommendation is every two years. Interestingly, in some of these countries, the incidence and death rates for breast cancer are actually lower or comparable to the United States.
When they're not spewing misinformation, the October issues of the traditional women's magazines are offering overly simplistic information about breast cancer risk factors and tips for preventing it. Woman's World (not to be confused with Good Housekeeping discuss factors you can change, such as smoking, and those you can't, like genetics. Missing is any mention about the purported connection between breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy. Also absent is information on parabens, phthalates and other carcinogenic chemicals, which are disturbingly common in consumer goods from lipstick to lotion.
The silence on these subjects mirrors the focus that both the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure place on the profitable business of curing cancer rather than preventing it, which likely would hurt the bottom line of many of their biggest donors. Consumers are told that shopping will help find a cure -- a message that is not lost on advertisers.
Vogue sings the praises of one prolific advertiser, Ralph Lauren, who this year is selling polo shirts with bullseyes above the breast to target breast cancer. The ad shows a group of young, mostly white women wearing skimpy thongs, the polo shirts and nothing else. Subtle, huh?
A Pine Sol ad in Essence features motorcycle riders Aj Jemison and Jan Emanuel "driving for the cure," which is awfully hard when your vehicle is spewing cancer-causing exhaust. On top of that, Pine Sol contains 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE), which has been linked to fertility disorders, birth defects and other medical problems.
Redbook carries a sparkling wine "Cheers for the Cure" ad. Curiously, their article, "Who Beats Cancer and Who Doesn't," was one of the few risk factor pieces that failed to mention the link between alcohol and breast cancer, something that is highlighted in several of the other magazines.
And what if you or someone you love gets breast cancer? Not to worry, the women's magazines are full of inspiring survivor stories. Unfortunately, while most breast cancer victims are over the age of 50, not one of the nine magazines I analyzed focused on those women and the impact the disease has on their lives. Far more typical is a piece in Vogue discussing a very attractive young woman's agonizing choice to have a preventive double mastectomy because she carries the genes that can cause breast cancer. And with the exception of Essence, whose target audience is black, most of the women in these survivor stories are white, even though black women are more likely to die from the disease.
Despite most of these magazines having sections on health, family and love, only two of them (Redbook and Essence) had any mention of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
While it is questionable that additional awareness of breast cancer is useful, in the case of domestic violence, more coverage would be helpful. Domestic violence is the most common type of violence experienced by women both globally and in the United States. The Family Violence Prevention Fund reports that one out of every three women worldwide is "beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime." Here in the United States, the rate is one in four. In 2005 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 976 women in the United States were killed by by men that they knew. Yet because we tend to see this violence as a private, shameful issue, only 20 percent of rapes and 25 percent of physical assaults against women in this country are reported to the police.
Also underreported is the great financial toll domestic violence takes on communities. FVPF estimates that the health-related costs of "rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year." About 70 percent of that goes toward direct medical costs; the other 30 accounts for indirect costs such as lost wages.
Though lacking in many other details, this month's article in Redbook did attempt to demonstrate how common domestic violence really is, with featured pictures of two women as well as two men who knew a woman who had been affected by domestic violence.
And the article in the October issue of Essence, which delves into why black America is "so silent" about the violence that is committed against black women (a number that nearly doubled between 2003 and 2004, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics), also pinpoints why more coverage in these magazines would be more useful. ""Awareness, or lack thereof, is also a factor, says Rose Pulliam, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline. "We have to find a way to talk about domestic abuse that doesn't demonize our men but creates a way of looking at this as something to discuss openly," she says.
What to take away from all this? The bottom line, literally, is that we shrink away from black eyes. Breasts, on the other hand, are highly marketable commodities, as these magazines' advertising and helpful hints about pink products attest. Glamour even uses breast cancer awareness as an opportunity for a little full frontal nudity, featuring young, pretty and oh-so-white survivors with their best come hither looks. This emphasis on youth and whiteness is a true disservice to older women who are far more likely to get this disease and black women who are more likely to die from it.
Such irresponsible coverage of breast cancer and blindness to domestic violence suggest that many publications are less concerned with women's health than with making a buck. By tugging at consumers' purse strings instead of promoting their well-being, these magazines fail to serve the women who read them.
*The magazines surveyed for this article were: Essence, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day, Women’s World, Ladies Home Journal, Glamour, Vogue and Beyond Breast Cancer
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org.
By Ellie Blalock, WIFP
May 23, 2007
In a society that worships the quick fix, vaccines seem nothing less than perfect. One trip to the doctor early in life can save a child from death or a lifetime of suffering with history’s most crippling epidemics. Polio, measles, and smallpox have been virtually eradicated worldwide through vaccination campaigns requiring minimal effort from the general public. Is it conceivable then that universal inoculation against HPV might not be our best option in the fight against cervical cancer?
This question has caused much recent debate among women’s groups and the medical community as numerous states and the District of Columbia consider bills which could require girls as young as 13 to show proof of inoculation with Gardasil, a new and not extensively-tested vaccine. While parents will be able to “opt out” of having their child receive the vaccine, the conditions under which this will be allowed are still unclear.
The major question that remains unanswered is how effective Gardasil would be even if required universally. Most cases of infection from HPV (around 90%) will disappear on their own within two years. Rarely does the HPV virus develop into cancer, and even more rarely is cervical cancer actually fatal. In fact, the cancer is considered to be largely preventable if women receive frequent pap smears. According to the Canadian Women's Health Network, the incidence of cervical cancer among women in the United States has dropped by 74% between 1955 and 1992, almost exclusively due to the introduction and increased availability of pap smears. Those who are still dying of cervical cancer today, says Sherrill Sellman of "Total Health" magazine, "are those who do not get screened (for whatever reason, be it financial, cultural, socioeconomic, or other access issues).
Gardasil, though it prevents infection from the two strains of HPV responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases, is not foolproof. There are over 100 strains of HPV, 15 of which can cause cervical cancer. That leaves 13 (or 30% ) of the cancer-associated strains unblocked. Even after receiving the HPV vaccine, women must still have regular pap smears to ensure they do not develop cancer from contracting the HPV virus before receiving the vaccine or from a strain not blocked by Gardasil.
There is limited research on the long-term safety of the HPV vaccine, particularly for pre-teen girls, who stand to benefit the most from its use. It seems at the least a bit suspicious that Gardasil is being advocated by legislators when there are still potential safety issues to resolve. Feminist blogger Lucinda Marshall of feministpeacenetwork.org offers her own explanation, writing that "Merck, the company that manufactures the vaccine, has provided very significant funding to many of the legislators that are pushing the vaccine." Gardasil has also been "blessed' by the CDC, meaning that Merck, which stands to profit upwards of a billion dollars from mandatory use of its newest vaccine, can not be sued for any injuries sustained from the drug.
Marshall also links the current push for widespread use of the HPV vaccine to similar support for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which “is probably responsible for a significant percentage of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer deaths,” in earlier years.
Gardasil’s high cost makes the case for mandatory vaccination in schools even weaker. Sherrill Sellman of “Total Health” magazine reports that at $360 for a series of three injections, the HPV vaccine is the most expensive in history, and would certainly stretch public health budgets supported by tax-payer money.
A vaccine which could safely and cheaply prevent cervical cancer would be wonderful news for the women’s health community, and to oppose it would be downright absurd. Unfortunately, this is not what we have in Gardasil. There is considerable evidence that the drug is simply not appropriate for mandatory use yet, and that public healthcare dollars would be better spent elsewhere. Greater access to gynecological services for marginalized groups, safe-sex campaigns, and even efforts for better public nutrition could all help to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer with none of the possible downsides or high costs associated with Gardasil. In the rush for a quick fix, it is necessary for governments to at least consider that there might be a more effective, sustainable, and non-invasive option out there than yet another new vaccine.
* * *
* Website: Chronically Inspired Rising Above Pain Creatively
Chronically Inspired is a website dedicated to using the arts and creativity to rise above chronic pain and illness. Here you will find stories, suggestions and creative inspirations to transcend physical conditions.
* Website: Rewire Your Brain for Love Mindfulness Meditation + Latest Neuroscience = Better Relationships
A neuropsychologist's exploration of mindfulness meditation and the brain.
* Website: Mindfulness in Education Network
The Mindfulness in Education Network (MiEN) was established in 2001 by a group of educators, students of Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master and peace activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MiEN has a Web site, sponsors conferences on mindfulness in education, and maintains a listserv with over 600 participants, ranging from early childhood educators to adult educators.
* Website: Center for Investigating Healthy Minds
The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) conducts rigorous interdisciplinary research on healthy qualities of mind such as kindness, compassion, forgiveness and mindfulness.
* Website: Learning to Breathe A Mindfulness Curriculum for Adolescents
Learning to BREATHE is a secular mindfulness-based curriculum for adolescents created for a classroom or group setting. The curriculum is intended to strengthen emotion regulation and attention, expand adolescents’ repertoire of stress management skills and help them integrate mindfulness into daily life. Each lesson includes age-appropriate discussion, activities and opportunities to practice mindfulness skills in a group setting.
Money Driven Medicine, Tests and Treatments That Don't Work, by David K. Cundiff, MD.
Excellent book documenting the need for evidence-based medicine. Dr. Cundiff thoroughly documents the alarming role of special interest money and the effects on our health care system. At the end of the book, rather than ending on a discouraging note, he presents an alternative system of "Doctor Managed Care" that is patient centered. It is a great tool for renewing our public debate for comprehensive health care reform.
You can order a copy from http://www.doctormanagedcare.com.
for Freedom of the Press