Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cancer and the REAL Leading Cause of Death

In less than an hour, I went from reading a purely innocent article entitled, "How Your Endocrine System is Being Harmed by the Top 5 Home Toxins," to re-discovering a truth I forgot I knew about the real leading cause of death to Americans. First, regarding the article, it is very informative regarding the toxins we bring into our home. For approximately 3-4 years I've kept air purifiers in my home for allergies as well as keeping other toxins and contaminants out of the air. Most people don't realize that lung cancer is actually the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. (But not the leading cause of death...)
I then ended up at another article, "What Caused a Dramatic Drop in Breast Cancer … Plus Top 11 Things You Can do to Lower Your Risk Even More …" It is a great article reminding us all that we do have some control over whether or not we get breast cancer, and if we do, the best way to help fight it.
The "C Word" is something we all fear. We participate in Relay for Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and the Avon 3 Day walk. In the world of public relations, breast cancer especially has gotten a pretty good name for itself, don't you think? But has it earned that right? Looking at projected statistics for 2010, 19% of breast cancer patients will die. But 71% of lung cancer patients will die. Hmmmm. All that hype going toward "breast cancer" and what's really getting us is lung cancer. Perhaps you can say that all the hype has led to better success rates for breast cancer, but I don't think so. And if that were so, why not do the same now for lung cancer?
I watched a new Christiane Northrup lecture on PBS last weekend called, "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom." She clarified something for me about self breast exams and why studies recently showed that women should stop doing them. Women who did self-exams found more tumors, including malignant ones, and detected some cancers earlier, but there was no significant difference in death rates. According to Dr. Northrup, "early detection" leads to finding cancers that would often go away on their own. She suggested that we take care of our bodies properly, and listen to them because we often get that gut feeling when something is really wrong. If you count all these "baby tumors" as breast cancer, you can see why the survival rate would be good...because the women having them wouldn't have died from the cancer at all. As a matter of fact, I just read somewhere and can't find the source, that cancers are often found during autopsies, where the cause of death was natural. So it's not uncommon to have cancer in our bodies that doesn't affect us at all. But if we start cutting out and attacking every lump or bump, I'm sure the "treatment" will eventually kill us. I highly suggest finding Dr. Northrup's lecture on your local PBS channel!
Now to the real reason I sat down to write. I still haven't shared the leading cause of death. If you have paid attention at all during the last 10 years or so, you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death.
Studies show that few women identify heart disease as their top cause of death. Significantly more women fear breast cancer over heart disease. Yet more women die from heart disease each year than from all cancers combined.
Whether you are a man or a woman, your chance of having cardiovascular disease (and dying from it) are greater than ALL cancers combined. So why is it that we fear the "C Word" so often and then get sneaked up on by a heart attack?! It all comes down to public relations (PR). Whether more money has gone into cancer campaigns, or their campaigns have been more effective, I don't know. But somehow we have grown this massive misconception in our country that cancer is what's going to get us. Perhaps believing that, and then believing that it is something out of our control is the reason so many people live like they do. I don't know.... Perhaps because the treatment for cancer is more dramatic and prolonged, it has garnered the sympathy donations, leading to more PR. It really has a life of it's own, and well, heart disease is something "old" people get and they just die and go away. Sorry to be blunt, but isn't that what's happening here?
If you look at the numbers, it is sad. The American Cancer Society only puts 15% of its funds toward research, but I would bet that most people think otherwise when they donate. The American Heart Association puts 20.8% toward research, but an impressive 40% toward public education. I also just read that the American Heart Association does not receive federal funding (although they do help other organizations receive funding for programs), and one of the goals for the American Cancer Society is to get MORE federal funding!
The point to all this is...we are each responsible for our own bodies. Our doctors, researchers, parents, or kids are not responsible for what we put in our mouths daily, whether we smoke, the air that we breathe or the toxins we invite into our homes. Giving money is not going to keep you alive, but spending that money on your own health WILL. And KNOW THE REAL DANGER FOR YOU. If you have hypertension, cholesterol problems, chest pains, or other little known heart symptoms, you should probably be more concerned about heart health than fearing cancer!
P.S. Eat your veggies!

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