Less Is More: Why Too Much Medical Care Is Bad for You

“The harder we look, the more cancer we find. Yet most of these extra “cancers” are less likely to affect health.”

You might think that cancer screening is a rather beneficial procedure to follow; after all it supposes to give knowledge and save our lives in the long run. This, of course, is really not always true. In fact, there are many downsides of cancer screening (e.g. PSA tests for prostate cancer or mammograms for breast cancer): one of the best-known is that in many cases they identify types of cancer that pose no risk. The very thought of having a form of cancer that is not harmful is totally unfamiliar to most folks since cancer is associated with immediate panic. As soon as cancer is diagnosed the human mind quickly visualizes the worst case scenarios, worry sets in, my life is at risk, I need medical treatment, and whatever it takes this cancer must leave my body. Tens of thousands have had their entire thyroid gland removed unnecessarily, only having non-life threatening cancer cells. I have heard their stories told in tears and the barbaric radiation treatment taken and a life dependant on anti-rejection drugs and thyroid medication, while living with constant hormonal imbalance. And same applies to having the breasts and ovaries removed based on their higher risk of developing cancer, the testing is called Breast Cancer Susceptibility Gene (BRCA), a positive test result means that the patient has a mutation in one of the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2, and therefore is at a higher risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer compared with someone who does not have the mutation. Out of fear of the unknown they surrender their cancer free state of health to the system, keeping in mind that a positive result doesn’t mean you’re certain to develop cancer. Yet, there is another way, holisitic naturopathic treatment and most don’t know it exisists or too affraid of going against the acceptable medical procedues.

We must keep in mind, on its own, would not be harmful, and always get a second or third opinion before any procedures. The problem starts when these procedures lead to overdiagnosis or treatments that are either unnecessary, as stated above, that could cause more damage than benefits. The same is true for thyroid gland screening—as above, and as you might remember, we have discussed this extensively before. “Detecting cancers that would never become apparent is screwing up our understanding of risk factors,” said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, co-author of the analysis in Annals of Internal Medicine.[1] The problem is especially clear in prostate, breast, thyroid cancers and melanoma, all of which are scrutiny dependent.

Another interesting article is targeting the affluent Americans. After examining the situation regarding those four cancers and the patients, it turned out that the affluent Americans were at particularly high risk for being diagnosed with them. It is important to mention that this higher risk comes from the fact that they are so thoroughly examined and thus overdiagnosed only because they can afford the procedure and the medications. Some people argue that overtreatment is better than undertreatment and it might be the case in situations when treatment is really inevitable and necessary but we need to keep in mind that false positives often require repeating mammograms and invasive biopsies that—among other negative effects—can cause high stress level which is by no means beneficial for anyone.

Many researchers around the world would like to improve the situation by “developing advanced imaging as a way to reduce unnecessary prostate biopsies following an elevated PSA. One, called multiparametric MRI, can reveal the size and density of a prostate cancer, and how well-connected it is to the blood supply. MRI reduced unnecessary biopsies by 70 percent”[2] and what is more, it is not missing aggressive cancers which means that it is a much safer alternative to biopsy. Although more research is required to prove the effectiveness of this method, it seems to be a good alternative to other screening techniques.

The truth is that too much of anything may not be good for us and medical care is no exception. “The harder we look, the more cancer we find. Yet most of these extra “cancers” are less likely to affect health.”[3] In reality we develop cancer cells every day and our healthy Immune system, T-cells kill these spontaneous blood cancer cells every day. It is a good thing we don’t get this news reported on an app, can you imagine this happening!

Even doctors agree that their patients receive too much medical care though the situation is not getting any better—the system itself does not operate based on common sense when money is at stake. This, again, circles back to those topics we covered before and shows that the health care system really is broken and in need of repair.

References:

[1] Begley, Sharon. 2018.

[2] Begley, Sharon. 2017.

[3] Welch, H. Gilbert. 2017.