Imagine if you paid your doctor to keep you well and if you got sick, stopped paying him until you regained your health. This is supposedly how medicine worked in ancient China and whether its a myth or not, it certainly puts a different spin on the concept of health care.
You see, in modern medicine, everything revolves around disease. We go to doctors to diagnose it, get drugs to manage it or have surgery to cut it out and chemo or radiation to nuke it. And then we have all manner of tests to look for it. No one seems to be looking for health though; it has fallen off the radar screen. In western medicine, we are over tested, over treated and over drugged.
The whole medical industrial complex is rewarded financially for sickness. Disease is the bread and butter of every pharmacist, doctor, surgeon, specialist and drug rep. It makes sense then that the more disease there is, the more profitable the business. And make no mistake about it, sickness is a huge business. Not content with medicating the sick, pharmaceutical companies are hell bent on medicating everybody else. Medicating the well is one way of keeping the wheels oiled and thats where vaccines and tests come in handy.
The drug successful visit
Tests, like vaccines, are sold to us as a preventative health strategy but they are nothing of the sort. How can something with inherent risks to your health possibly be considered preventative? Of course there are some useful tests that do not cause any harm, like vitamin D testing, but there are numerous other tests that are invasive and risky. These tests are sold to us in the same way as drugs because apparently the benefits outweigh the risks.
Tests are more often than not a thinly disguised way of ensuring a drug successful visit to your doctor. And yes, thats a real term in the pharmaceutical biz that should convince you that you are nothing more than a commodity.
Atul Gawande, a professor in the department of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health, puts it into perspective: United States is a country of three hundred million people who annually undergo around fifteen million nuclear medicine scans, a hundred million CT and MRI scans, and almost ten billion laboratory tests. Often, these are fishing expeditions, and since no one is perfectly normal you tend to find a lot of fish. If you look closely and often enough, almost everyone will have a little nodule that cant be completely explained, a lab result that is a bit off, a heart tracing that doesnt look quite right.
So what happens when the tests throw up a fish or two, as they invariably will? More tests of course, or exploratory surgery, a biopsy, drugs, sleepless night worrying about what you might or might not have and the grand prize of having diverted your attention away from health to the ever present fear of disease. Millions of Americans get tests, drugs, and operations that wont make them better, may cause harm, and cost billions.
So many tests, so little time
Whilst some tests might be necessary some of the time, testing of healthy people on a regular basis has become routine. Its a wonder people have any time for anything other than sitting in a doctors waiting room. There are so many tests Pap smears, blood tests, HPV tests, skin checks, eye exams, thyroid screening, endoscopies, PSA tests, bone mineral density tests, electrocardiograms, mammograms, cholesterol tests, MRIs, cardiac CT angiography, whole-body CT scans, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, treadmill stress tests, echocardiograms, colonoscopies, stool tests, blood tests etc.
There must be a special place in hell reserved for the guy who invented the mammogram. Whoever thought that taking sensitive breast tissue and forcibly squishing and stretching it between two cold glass plates and then exposing it to radiation was a good idea should be shot. The higher your risk of breast cancer, the more often you are encouraged to have a mammogram and therefore the more your breast will be exposed to radiation. The type of radiation used is ionizing radiation one mammogram is equal to 1,000 chest X-rays which can lead to the mutations that cause breast cancer!
Additionally, if cancer cells are present, applying the kind of pressure involved in a mammogram can spread these cells. Mammograms are notorious for the high rate of false positives they deliver which finds disease where there is none, leading to further tests, psychological trauma and invasive treatments like needle biopsies. These biopsies are equally notorious for being inaccurate so many women end up getting chemo, mastectomies or partial mastectomies for nothing, not to mention the stress and fear generated.
In 2009, in a Cochrane review of breast cancer screening and mammography, the authors said: Screening led to 30 percent overdiagnosis and overtreatment, or an absolute risk increase of 0.5 percent. This means that for every 2000 women screened for 10 years, one will have her life prolonged, and 10 healthy women who would not have been diagnosed if they had not been screened, will be treated unnecessarily.
This news seems to be taking its time to filter down to The American Cancer Society who, six years later, proclaims: Current evidence supporting mammograms is even stronger than in the past and then recommends: Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health. Read that as: or until they get cancer from the tests that are supposed to diagnose it because with all that radiation, you are bound to get the sucker eventually.
On another page, they just come right out and say it: Screening mammograms are used to look for breast disease in women who are asymptomatic. They do admit that mammograms are not perfect: Women should be told about the benefits and limitations linked with yearly mammograms. But despite their limitations, mammograms are still a very effective and valuable tool for decreasing suffering and death from breast cancer. No, a valuable tool would be a better diet or meditation to reduce stress or avoiding the chemicals like parabens and aluminum that have been implicated in breast cancer.
Mammograms cant even prove that you have cancer; you have to have another test for that where they cut out some tissue to examine under a microscope. If cancer is suspected, you can expect more cutting, nuking, drugging and stress. Dr. Leonard Coldwell, a naturopathic doctor and one of the worlds most respected authorities on curing cancer naturally, says: The promotion of early detection, saying it will save your life or breast is, in my experience, a blatant lie. What Ive witnessed is that early detection simply means the instant start of suffering due to mandatory treatments and the loss of quality of life, pain and suffering and an inhumane death.
It was once thought that cancer was a one way trajectory and once you had it, the cells kept multiplying until you died or there was some sort of intervention. We now know this is nonsense and that cancer doesnt act alone but is fueled by the conditions present in the whole body. Your best defense against cancer is a healthy immune system. According to breast surgeon Susan Love of UCLA: At least 30 percent of tumors found on mammograms would go away even if we did nothing,
Another cancer test foisted on women is the annual Pap smear for cervical cancer. Whilst the test itself isnt particularly dangerous, the overscreening, overmanaging and overtreating that results are, especially since 60 percent of precancerous cervical cells, found with Pap tests, revert to normal within a year; 90 percent revert within three years.
PSA tests useless
If you are reading this and thanking your lucky stars because you are a man, hold on to your hat. The male equivalent of the Pap smear is the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. This test is unreliable because it can miss cancer thats there and flag cancer that isnt. Research has revealed that: only zero to one out of every 1,000 men who are screened would actually benefit from the exam, while many others would suffer from the side effects of unnecessary treatments, ranging from impotence to death.
The National Cancer Institute says: there is no specific normal or abnormal PSA level but if the test returns a high number, a biopsy will be recommended anyway. Biopsies are a whole lot of fun they involve sticking needles where you really dont want them, considerable pain, the risk of nasty infections and other complications like difficulty urinating and they are not even guaranteed to detect cancer.
In every 1,000 biopsies about 120 will find cells that appear to be malignant. Nine out of ten men will agree to surgery, radiation or hormone-deprivation therapy. According to a report in Reuters: Up to five men in 1,000 opting for surgery will die within a month of the operation; 10 to 70 more will have serious cardiovascular complications such as a stroke or heart attack..After radiotherapy and surgery, 200 to 300 of 1,000 men suffer incontinence, impotence or both. Hormone-deprivation therapy causes erectile dysfunction in about 400 of 1,000 men.
All of this for a cancer that is generally so slow to progress that men who choose to leave the cancer alone tend to die of other causes, like old age.
General health check-ups good right?
What about general health check-ups, surely those are good? Nope, in a study involving 83,000 people, these checks: did not reduce morbidity or mortality, neither overall nor for cardiovascular or cancer causes, although the number of new diagnoses was increased. Thats good news for Big Pharma more diagnoses equals more treatment and more drugs.
Testing encourages the entirely ridiculous view of the body as separate and discrete parts instead of a whole. Doctors have become increasingly specialized which further divvies up the body into isolated compartments. Unfortunately, everything in your body is intimately connected to everything else and treating one bit without considering all the other bits is a recipe for disaster.
This approach allows doctors to prescribe anti-depressants for your depression, PPIs for your reflux, statins for your high cholesterol, beta blockers for your high blood pressure, cortisone pumps for your asthma, chemo for your cancer and antibiotics for just about everything else. Does any of this lead to better health? Course not, because the root cause of your troubles has not been addressed. You can bet you will be back in the doctors office soon enough for the side effects from the medication you were taking to treat the symptoms of the original complaint.
The osteoporosis lie
Tests give everyone the illusion of having concrete proof about the state of their health. In most cases, however, the test results are just numbers printed on a page. Take bone mineral density tests, used to diagnose osteoporosis. It might surprise you to learn that the gold standard of normal bone density is based on the arbitrary measurement of a 25 -29 year old female at peak bone mass.
Does it not seem faintly ridiculous to expect everyone, no matter what age, sex or ethnicity to have the same bones? A 65 year old or a 70 year old is bound to have different bones as someone decades younger. It is completely normal and natural for bones to become less dense with age but that does not necessarily mean they become weaker. Bone density tests do not measure tensile strength, only compressive strength, which reflects one small aspect of bone health. Compressive strength helps you resist breaks from the force of a static weight whilst tensile strength helps you resist breaks from pulling and stretching.
And how about this different machines give different results, depending on who manufactured the machine. In other words, you could be diagnosed with osteopenia on one machine and osteoporosis on another. All of this moot if you are over the age of 80 because by then your bones would have moved so far from normal that you will almost definitely be diagnosed with osteoporosis and leave with a prescription for antifracture therapy in the form of a bisphosphonate like Fosamax. Bisphosphonates are expensive, like the tests, and the potential side effects are horrific jaw bone necrosis and spontaneous fracture of the longest bone in your body (the femur) being among them.
A 1996 Swedish meta-analysis of 11 separate studies totaling 90 000 person years of observation time and over 2000 fractures, concluded: Measurements of bone mineral density can predict fracture risk but cannot identify individuals who will have a fracture. We do not recommend a programme of screening menopausal women for osteoporosis by measuring bone density.
Osteoporosis isnt even a disease; its a description of weak bones, not the cause of weak bones. The causes are many and varied, including poor nutrition, lack of exercise, lack of sunshine, and medications like PPIs, cortisone, long term antibiotic use, chemo (remember those?)and many more.
Relying on medical testing to tell you if you are in good shape instead of listening to your own body is one way of surrendering your power and making someone else responsible for your health. This has led to things like the statin disaster where millions of people have been persuaded to take expensive medication to treat a disease that doesnt exist, again because of a number. High cholesterol only became a problem when doctors learnt how to measure it.
Statin drugs, besides causing liver, brain, nerve and muscle problems, can also cause diabetes and cancer. Statins block the pathway used by cells to make cholesterol which is the same as the one used by cells for growth and division. Blocking cholesterol is a bad idea because cholesterol is kinda important for all sorts of things like maintaining cell membranes, producing steroid hormones, forming synapses in the brain and making bile acids. The lower your cholesterol, the higher your risk of cancer.
Ah, the routine colonoscopy
Last but not least, we have the routine colonoscopy the gold standard for colon cancer prevention. In sanitized doctor speak, colonoscopy doesnt sound too bad but in plain English it involves sticking an instrument up your butt through six feet of convoluted bowel (including through four right angles!)under anesthesia after having your colon chemically laundered of every vestige of friendly flora so that it is squeaky clean and camera ready.
What could possibly go wrong? Not much, apart from the obvious dangers of anesthetics and the less obvious and seldom advertised risks of a perforated colon, ruptured spleen, internal bleeding, diverticulitis, abdominal pain, infection, chemical colitis (from improperly rinsed instruments disinfected with glutaraldehyde) and death. This is for a routine procedure?
In a text prepared by the Standards of Practice Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the comforting conclusion begins with: Complications are inherent in the performance of colonoscopy. As endoscopy assumes a more therapeutic role in the management of GI disorders, the potential for complications will likely increase.
According to the Annals of Internal Medicine: the rate of serious complications from colonoscopy screening is 10 times higher than for any other commonly used cancer-screening test. Thats during the procedure but unless you take steps to repair the damage done to your gut bacteria afterwards, you can expect to develop dysbiosis, which contributes to the development of colon cancer!
So sure, go and get a test if you really suspect there is a problem but always do your homework first and ask questions. Dont use tests as a way to keep healthy because it doesnt work like that. If it aint broke, dont fix it and you will probably live a longer, happier and healthier life.