It is my personal opinion that the greatest cause of mortality from cancer is the individual equating death and cancer. When an individual is diagnosed with a malignancy, their first assumption is that it will eventually kill them and they do not muster all their resources to fight this vicious disease.
Often the physician who initially makes the diagnosis is a contributor to the problem. Over half the cancers he was taught were untreatable, if he graduated medical school more than ten years ago, are today curable to some degree. Furthermore, he has seen the suffering that went along with some of the primitive treatments in the past and he could not see putting his beloved patient through this. He recommends they go home and make themselves as comfortable as possible for the time they have to live. I’m not trying to say that everyone can beat cancer. Certainly some people are going to die from it, no matter what they do. But I am saying that if a person doesn’t try, there is no way they can beat it. If they do try, they have a chance. And I believe it can do nothing but improve the quality of their life. To me, there was nothing worse than waiting to die with no hope. Whatever treatments I went through did not compare to the lack of hope I had the first 5 days after diagnosis. I was fighting to live rather than waiting to die.
It is believed that the average person gets cancer 6 times a year. Their immune system destroys the cancer cells and we know nothing about it. Occasionally something comes along to depress the immune system which allows these malignant cells to get a foothold and multiply. When the immune system recovers, the cancer is already too well established and we have a detectable case of cancer. It is often discovered by a general doctor who tells the patient there is no hope, further depressing the immune system. The patient has complete confidence in this doctor who represents the entire medical system, so there is no purpose in getting a second opinion or going elsewhere. The patient is totally out of control at this point, compounding the problem.
There have been numerous studies documenting the effects of stress on the immune system, both with animals and individuals. It has been demonstarted that tumors grow faster in mice under stress. Mice have fared worse and died sooner when they were made to feel helpless. The incidence of cancer in individuals following a traumatic event such as the death of a spouse or child or retirement has been shown to increase dramatically. It has even been demonstrated that individuals with suicidal tendencies have a higher incidence of cancer indicating that cancer could be a legal method of committing suicide.
Couple this with the fact that rarely is cancer ever diagnosed by an oncologist. Some 85% of all cancer patients do not use an oncologist as their primary physician. Cancer is an extremely complex array of over 100 different diseases with at least 6 common methods of treatment, any one of which could successfully treat some cancers, but generally they are given in combination. If it is not treated promptly, properly and thoroughly, there usually is no second chance. Progress in cancer treatments is being made at such a rapid pace that no single individual could conceivably know all the latest and best treatments for any single type of cancer, let alone all different cancers.
It is for these reasons that I believe that the greatest single mortality factor in cancer is the patient believing that death and cancer are synonymous. Promptly getting the patient to a multidisciplinary panel or to a board certified oncologist as a second opinion could do more to save lives than anything else. If they try, they have a chance. If they don’t, they’re as good as dead.
The “Fighting Cancer Rally”, a gathering of hundreds of individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer and are still alive and enjoying life, could give vivid visual evidence that death and cancer is not synonymous. It would give a message without words to every cancer patient that there is hope! Some people, an awful lot, are surviving the diagnosis of cancer. There are reportedly over 8,000,000 Americans alive today with a history of cancer. The cancer patient would realize that they are not alone. Maybe if they try, they will have a chance. That is all I want: for everyone to try.