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The undeniable truth is, cancer is big business. Every year the pharmaceutical and medical sectors in the cancer industry make billions from patients’ spending on cancer treatment. Not only is cancer a deadly disease that many people fear, but it is also very costly to treat. Whether patients choose to treat cancer in a conventional way – by chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, or use alternative paths, they and their families must spend big money.
It is said that to pay for cancer treatment you would need to be rich or to be insured. The “have nots”, unfortunately, perish if there is no one or institution to help them.
Undoubtedly, cancer is traumatic on every level. Health fails, resources deplete, and relationships suffer.
But, have you ever wondered why after all this time and spending on research there is no cure for this devastating disease?
Conspiracy Theory – Big Pharma Does Not Want a Cancer Cure
Let’s be brutally frank. It is possible that big pharma is not chasing a cure for the disease. After all, why shoot oneself in the foot? A cancer cure would mean the drastic reduction in the massive profits from years of cancer treatment among millions of sufferers.
Why change that?
At the start of the last century, only one in twenty persons is diagnosed with cancer. During the 1940s the proportion rose to one in sixteen persons with a cancer diagnosis. By the 1970s the number of cancer victims increased to one in ten. Shockingly, today, the prevalence of cancer in the population is one in three!
One in three!
While this is the picture painted for the United States, it is not much different in other parts of the world.
In Jamaica, younger and younger persons are diagnosed with the dreaded disease. In the case of breast cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Jamaican women, the median age at which women are being diagnosed is 52. This is eight years younger than the worldwide average age of 60 years.
So, instead of a reduction or slow-down in the number and prevalence of cancer in the population, there is an increase. From a business perspective, this is a lucrative market, poised for growth and more growth. No wonder it appears that there is no hurry to find a cure.
Cancer Industry is Huge
In the United States, the cancer industry is huge. It is estimated in 2014 that the medical cost for cancer care is US$125 billion. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that the cost would grow by 39 percent to US$173 billion by 2020. Regardless of the type of cancer that is diagnosed annually, the outcome will be the same. More money will be spent on treatment. The purveyors of cancer medical treatments and therapies will continue to make a killing.
And the scenario remains favourable for the cancer business. Again, in the United States, it is estimated that almost 1.7 million new cancer cases are diagnosed annually. Sadly, almost 600,000 persons die from the disease every year.
In Jamaica, cancer was the cause of death for 19.3% of persons who died in 2016. The estimates for 2018 was that more than 7,300 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Jamaica. That estimate was according to the World Health Organisation International Agency for Cancer Research (WHO IACR).
Naturally, the cost burden on individuals and families is also significant. The cost of cancer medications in Jamaica can easily run into more than J$50,000 per month depending on the type of medications required to treat cancer. Two million Jamaican dollars can be quickly depleted. Fortunately, the National Health Fund (NHF) allows cardholders to access subsidised costs for cancer treatment.
Notwithstanding other factors, the stark reality is that the cancer industry expects the cancer market to grow, not to shrink.
Cancer Research, Is it a Farce?
No doubt, billions of dollars have gone into research on cancer. Institutions like the American Medical Association (AMA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the USA’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) are among the foremost institutions dedicated to cancer research. While there is a significant pool of scientists and researchers with years of research expertise behind them, skeptics remain convinced that the research being done is no closer to a cure for the disease.
A cynical view, for example, is that:
“The research dollars have all been devoured by a cancer monopoly – a cartel – consisting of pharmaceutical companies…a research system that supports pharmaceutical manufacturers, a system of charities that raise money for cancer research, and various federal agencies such as the US FDA. These groups…are fully committed to earning profits for the cancer monopoly that is headed by the pharmaceutical companies.” John P. Thomas, Health Impact News
A medical practitioner noted that “From 1920 to the present time, we have made little progress in the treatment of adult cancers. So, a person who gets prostate cancer or breast cancer today will live as long as a person who got it in 1920.” (Charles B. Simone, M.MS., M.D., Founder, Simone Protective Cancer Center)
These and other observation are not encouraging indications that progress is being made in cancer research over the years. Apparently, cancer research has not presented curative solutions to this deadly disease. Evidently, a confounding factor in cancer research and a search for a cure is the variations and complexities of the disease itself.
Fear – a Typical Reaction to Cancer Diagnosis
It is, therefore, not surprising that the typical reaction to a cancer diagnosis is fear. A fear inspired by the knowledge that conventional cancer treatment does not work for everyone.
And the fear is not unjustified when you consider that the cancer treatment itself causes cancer. An admission from the US government is that:
“Current approaches to combat cancer rely primarily on the use of chemical and radiation, which are themselves carcinogenic and may promote recurrences and the development of metastatic disease.” (Patent No. 5,605,930. “Compositions and methods for treating and preventing pathologies including cancer.” Approved 1997 USA Department of HHS page 56)
Standard Treatment Options and Survival
So, the standard treatment options for cancer are not cures. When faced with a diagnosis, the typical options Oncologists present to patients are chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. That has been the case for the past 100 years. Oncologists on a whole do not recommend anything else.
When talking about survival chances, there is a limit. The definition of cancer survival is the percent of persons who live beyond a specified time frame. So, typically a 5-year survival rate is used to indicate the proportion of every 100 persons who survive beyond five years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, for most cancers, this survival rate is well below 50 percent.
With low survival rates among patients, the cancer industry relies on a steady supply of new cancer cases to keep it viable. Pursuing a cure is not a priority since well over 60 percent of the cancer patient pool will die before five years after being diagnosed.
There are numerous stories of persons who, having been diagnosed with cancer, exhaust their life’s savings and that of their loved ones, only to succumb despite being treated with chemotherapy drugs and radiation.
Alternative Therapies, Are they More Effective?
Understandably, patients seek other treatment options said to offer a cure in a bid to prolong life. But even then, there are risks. Given that many of the “alternative” options are unproven and untested, the medical fraternity is reluctant to endorse or recommend such approaches. These untested options include radical changes in diet, herbal medicines, meditation, and prayer.
Yet, there are many cancer survivors who testify of their successes with these alternative approaches. Dramatic turnarounds among some cancer survivors who use alternative therapies are downright miraculous. Medical science cannot explain them.
But as the saying goes, a drowning man clutches at straws.
The Dark Side of the Alternative Cancer Market
The dark side of the cancer industry relates to alternative cancer “cures” that are actually scams that exploit vulnerable cancer patients and their families. As opposed to success stories, just as many horror stories show the devastating effects of trusting unscrupulous charlatans who pose as healers, naturopathic doctors, and herbalist with the “cure”. That exposure translates to millions of hard-earned money down the drain.
Inevitably, cancer patients who turn to unscrupulous scams return to the Oncologist for treatment. Unfortunately, by then, it is too late. Cancer has spread beyond repair.
Is there hope?
But there is hope, especially for those who do regular screenings and discover their cancer early. Early detection is important for the successful treatment of cancer, even with the conventional methods of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. For others who, unfortunately, discover their cancers after it has begun to spread, organisations like the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) provide support through counselling and outreach.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Health and Wellness in 2018 opened the National Cancer Registry. It also opened, in 2018, a world-class Cancer Treatment Centre at the St. Joseph’s Hospital, Kingston. The Kingston facility is the second such treatment centre funded by the National Health Fund, the first, which was opened in 2017 is in the Cornwall Regional Hospital, St. James. The treatment facilities offer improved radiation treatment using state of the art equipment.
Enough is Enough! Release the Cure
While much is happening for cancer treatment, which hopefully will extend survival rates, patients and their families await a cure. Conspiracy theorists suggest that a cure for cancer was developed long ago but influential forces have kept them secret. Be that as it may, it is time for the long-awaited cure for cancer to be released. Millions of lives depend on it.