Modern Medicine: ‘Chemo’ and cancer survival and other issues


Cancer is not necessarily the end of the world. There are various treatments for the different types of cancer, and there are a lot. These can include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It depends much upon what kind of cancer, and what stage it is at.

Looking at the cancer scenario, I came across an article the other day referring to breast cancer survival rates and compared two different kinds of cytotoxic drugs. In other words cell killers, and that is what chemotherapy is all about. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy drugs will also kill off ‘good’ cells as well as the cancerous ones. A big problem, and the reason why people taking chemotherapy need to have their blood count checked regularly.

But back to the two drugs being used for breast cancer in the scientific article. The end result of the study was that Drug A was more effective than Drug B, but had significantly more side effects as well. Reading further, it was reported that Drug B extended life by 13 point something months, while Drug A had the sufferer living 15 point something months; however, the downside to those ‘extra’ two extra months included mouth ulcers, infections and low blood counts. Despite this, the researchers came to the conclusion that Drug A was best.

I ask you, best for who? In my book, it wasn’t the patient! Yes, it’s my old hobby horse – the Quality of Life. What is the point of saying you can have Drug A to give you two extra months – but of misery. One thing is for sure, I will put my last baht on the fact that none of the research team took either drug! At least the famous medico John Hunter gave himself syphilis to try to find the cure. You won’t find that kind of dedication today, even though some people would call it foolishness.

We must never forget that in all our research we are not dealing here with breast cancers – we are dealing with women that have breast cancer! We, the medical profession, must treat the whole person, not the disease or the test result.

Now I mentioned breast cancer for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that screening tests can be done, and I would suggest that all you ladies over the age of 40 (or over the age of 30 if your mother or a maternal aunt died of breast cancer) should consider annual mammograms in addition to your monthly Breast Self-Examination.

The second reason I mentioned breast cancer is that it is not, as many western women think, the greatest killer of women. For many 10 year groups of women, heart disease is the greatest killer. Yes, heart disease, the greatest killer of men is now firmly entrenched in women’s medicine.

I’m sorry to say this, but along with your quest for equality and work opportunities, you also picked up male disease patterns as well. Heart disease in particular. One of the reasons is of course the western diet high in animal fats, well documented as a precursor of heart disease. Cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries, coronary artery bypass grafts (known in the medical trade as CABG’s, or ‘cabbages’) are all now women’s diseases too.

So what can you do about this? The simple answer is to take a leaf out of the Eastern ladies’ handbooks on living. An Asian diet, which is high in vegetable content and low in animal fats is a good start. More of a ‘jai yen-yen’ approach to life’s problems also helps. Use the ‘family’ network to get problems solved, and in fact the family approach to living, with each member helping when necessary, is another good example from the Asian book of life.

In the meantime, you should get your cholesterol measured each year too, not just “him downstairs.” Correct it as needed. Get your blood pressure checked and correct it as needed. Make sure your weight is within healthy limits too. And finally, all things in moderation applies to the women folk as well.