"Dr. Google is a Liar"
Did you read this op/ed from December 15, 2018? I missed this in the NY Times, but think it worthwhile to still consider now.
Dr. Warraich, a cardiologist, highlights the conspiracy minded misinformation that dominates much of popular health care discussions. As I don't see patients, a lot of this mindset is news to me. From his "fake news hit list", I was familiar only with the campaigns against vaccines, although I didn't know the global extent of this problem. What was new information for me was the disinformation around cancers:
"Cancer is another big target for pushers of medical misinformation — many of whom are making money off alternative therapies. “Though most people think cancer tumors are bad, they’re actually the way your body attempts to contain the harmful cells,” one fake news story reads. It suggests that surgery “compounds the risk of spreading harmful cells,” and warns that “prescription medications cause the body to become acidic, adding to the uncontrolled cell mutations.”
A 2017 study found that when cancer patients turn to alternative therapies like diets, herbs and supplements in place of conventional therapies, they are 2.5 times more likely to die. By exploiting people’s fears, those who dissuade patients from getting evidence-based treatment have blood on their hands."
I read the webpage he cites in the first paragraph here (Top 8 Ways To Heal America from Cancer). There, cancer is confusingly referred to both as a fearful foe and as something that is a natural reaction to our modern world. The website demonstrates a loose understanding of just what is a carcinogen and distorts the role carcinogens play in the growth of cancers. There's no doubt - industrial chemicals and ionizing radiation are harmful and damaging to our environment and bodies. I share concerns about food additives and the profit motives that drive pharmaceutical corporations and hospitals.
But those concerns I have? They make me want to help protect my fellow humans, not just settle into my personal pure bunker. They motivate me to improve our regulatory state, to stop dangerous emissions, to regulate corporate profits and liabilities, and increase transparency about farming practices. These concerns do not make me want to fix, fortify or otherwise control my body with supplements, vitamins, bottled water or packaged oxygen.
Even if I did just give into fear, the cures and potions these purveyors are selling do. not. work. The methodology behind the function of these drugs does not match what we know of biology, and they do not stand up in trials designed to determine their efficacy.
Most of us lead unhealthy lives, and the remedy for that is rather boring - a moderate diet of mostly plants, daily exercise and a good night's sleep. Why then do we crave a more exciting answer? Most of the excitement involves purchasing unregulated supplements, and in my opinion that drive for consumption ("do something!"), and not 'western medicine', is the root problem. It makes sense that people are fearful and want control over what happens to our bodies. We're talking about deep issues of loss of bodily integrity and eventually death. But the facts - down to our cells and tissues - show us that we don't have control.
Dr. Warriach mentions the boomerang effect, wherein people become even more entrenched in false beliefs when presented with facts. That is almost a nihilistic statement, for how can one then try to educate people about science and medicine? Nevertheless, this opinion piece actually inspires me to keep trying. When I hear about such profound misunderstandings of what cancer is and what it isn't, I can't help but be motivated. It gives me inspiration for showing the physical facts of cancer growths and makes me still want to try and dislodge those false beliefs.