FACTS & MYTHS: Prevent and Treat Cancer with Diet and Lifestyle

Families, doctors, nurses, patients, people all:

Everyone knows someone with cancer. Cancer is unfortunately inevitable unless something else gets you first. It may sound awful to talk that way but because of what cancer is - essentially the unchecked growth of progressively more abnormal cells - and the fact that our cell's replicating machinery gets a little wonky as it wears out over time, the older we are the more likely we are to develop cancers.

Cancer is horrible. It devastates happiness, bodies, minds, families, plans, and dreams. We want to do everything possible to treat it and prevent it. Although I've written a lot about the futility of aggressive care in the end of life, the harms of delaying a palliative approach, and our misplaced trust in screening (which often harms more than it helps: PSAs or mammograms, for example), I also advocate strongly for patient access to the things that do work.

There are things you can do to lower your risks, robustly backed by the evidence: 

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay away from environmental/industrial carcinogens like asbestos, radon, and benzene
  • Reduce radiation exposure by avoiding unnecessary medical imaging tests
  • Avoid excesses of alcohol
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Consider a pap test
  • Only take supplemental hormones if medically required
  • Get other 'screening' tests eg. colonscopy if you are a high-risk patient (eg. an immediate relation was diagnosed with colon cancer)

There is a great summary of some specific examples of dietary items in the "Summary of global evidence on cancer prevention" from the World Cancer Research Fund International.

As much as we want them to work, natural supplements, diets, 'miracle' clinics overseas, and homeopathy just don't.

Billions of dollars are made in scaring people into taking 'natural' remedies that are meant to prevent or treat cancer. Let me tell you: if these remedies were effective, they would be patented, put into pill form, and your family physician would be nagging you to take them. Heck, we might even lobby the government to put cancer-preventing agents in the drinking water! And if there was such thing as a miracle clinic, curing cancer constantly, well I would like to work there because that sounds amazingly rewarding.

Sadly, despite our dearest hopes, turmeric and elimination diets, cannabis oil, black fungus like that growing at Chernobyl (Fox News), and a whole host of other things continue to be proven useless at preventing or treating cancer. Most of these 'remedies' are harmless, but some have real side effects and none of them help the wallet.

In fact, while people are wasting their time, money, and hope on these snake oils, they are depriving themselves of the opportunity to focus on what matters:

  • Eating whatever you want
    • to try to slow the process of weight loss from cancer and to enjoy life because food = joy for many
  • Using money to enjoy experiences that are important to you 
    • visiting family, ticking items off the bucket list... one incredible patient I met shocked his family and had an incredible time by skydiving for the first time after age 70 (despite cancer with metastases to bone!)
  • Focusing on treatments that have been shown to be effective through scientific study
    • nothing breaks a caregiver's heart more than seeing someone chose an 'alternative' treatment when there is a validated one that would likely be well tolerated, and is quite likely to lead to cure (eg. death of Makalya Sault, after her family got their hopes ensnared by a quack in Florida
  • Working through the difficult task of coming to terms with having cancer, whether treatable or not
  • Receiving palliative care (which improves quality of life and can actually extend life!)

Optimism is not wrong - optimistic people probably live longer. If you trust that (scientific) statement, then you should also trust that the optimism should be directed towards scientifically-backed things that work.

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Learn more about Tackling cancer treatment myths, from clean eating to cannabis

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2...

The answer to everything wrong in health care

TOP Alberta has released a beautiful infographic Evidence Summary: The Benefits of Continuity in Primary Care, and the document also serves as an overview of the 112 publications they reviewed.

It speaks for itself. Maybe the title of this post is a bit grandiose, but as a shameful hypocrite [I have very little continuity in my clinical practice, something I'm working to remedy] I cannot underscore how important this idea is.

Every physician, nurse, administrator (yes, you!), health policy person, and their uncle needs to not only know this but act on it. Continuity is what we need.

It's not a fad. It's something that we used to have. And it has slowly been eroded, without too many people noticing, as we kept focussing on the newest technology and the latest pharmaceuticals as if they would solve everything.

In BC, the essential nature of continuity has been recognized particularly with the work of Marcus Hollander and was implemented in the GP for Me/Attachment Initiative. Unfortunately (some might dispute this), changing physician incentives to try to encourage more attachment hasn't made much of a difference for patients. So while we know that we need continuity, we don't know how to 'make' the system or the providers do it.

It's a perfect storm for patients: Can't find a GP, or if you can it's hard to build a relationship with them because they are so busy/unavailable/don't have enough time to spend with you; the GP doesn't know all the details of your care as pharmacists/naturopaths and others expand their scope and don't communicate with the GP; the medical records at the hospital or from the specialist in the other city don't link with those of the GP so no one knows what is going on; when a referral or requisition is sent, there is no confirmation that is was received so it might be that you are just waiting, or it might be that it has been lost and you will never hear back about the appointment; when a home care support worker or nurse comes, it is a different person each day and they don't know you or your needs, and they aren't allowed to do the things you need help with most.

Health care really is about caring for people, and how can we do this when we do not build robust and lasting relationships?

The review did not cover provider satisfaction but personally and in BC studies so far, physician satisfaction is improved by continuity with patients. However, this is not how most young graduates are practicing; Yet another great reason that we need to look more into this.

Is it too good to be true? Before we rush ahead and try to force the "magic pill" of continuity, we need to know more about why it's being eroded, and if we can save it, then how?

 

Source: http://www.topalbertadoctors.org/file/top-...

Quaternary Prevention, P4

We still lack a unifying name, but initiatives like "Right Care," "Choosing Wisely," "Preventing Overdiagnosis," "Prudent Healthcare," and others all seek to describe, categorize, confront, or improve upon the status quo of what's being done: too much medical stuff and too little caring for people.

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    Jamoulle M. Quaternary prevention, an answer of family doctors to overmedicalization. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 2015, 4(2), 61–64

Jamoulle M. Quaternary prevention, an answer of family doctors to overmedicalization. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 2015, 4(2), 61–64

 

Quaternary Prevention

You may have read lately about Quaternary Prevention (Prévention quaternaire) or P4, a major initiative of this movement. This – in the words of Ray Moynihan – "awkwardly titled" idea came originally from Dr Marc Jamoulle (@jamoulle), a Belgian GP, almost 30 years ago.

He coined the term "Quaternary Prevention" to describe 'an action taken to identify a patient or a population at risk of overmedicalisation, to protect them from invasive medical interventions and provide for them care procedures which are ethically acceptable.' Essentially, it is a process that explicitly considers and thus enables avoidance of iatrogenic harm. 

"Quaternary prevention should take precedence over any alternative preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic, as dictated by the principle of primum non nocere." (Wikipedia)

P4

*NB*: Be careful not to confuse Jamoulle's term P4 with the more popular P4; predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory (P4) medicine, with a focus on detecting and dealing with disease before it even exists, may (arguably) be the antithesis to Quaternary Prevention.

Jamoulle's idea came first, anyway. His original 1986 article Information and computerization in general practice (en français) started the discussion around quaternary prevention, with a particular focus on how information technology can dehumanize healthcare. He has refined the idea, with presentations at WONCA world conferences and many publications (listed here).

View Dr Jamoulle's page on Quaternary Prevention "P4" or read more

Although the cumbersome title will probably dissuade related initiatives from taking the name and falling under the umbrella of 'quaternary prevention,' we are all united in the spirit of our efforts. I remain in awe that Jamoulle and others had the wisdom to begin the discussion of harms of overdiagnosis in a time while mammography was just gaining momentum, ADD was rarely diagnosed and yet to be redefined as ADHD, and I was still in diapers.

A summary: How to prevent #overdiagnosis @SwissMedWkly

For anyone who is even remotely interested in the movement to prevent overdiagnosis, I suggest you check out this article, How to Prevent Overdiagnosis, in its entirety.

Dr Arnaud Chiolero et al. have provided a thorough overview of the causes of overdiagnosis, methods to estimate the frequency of overdiagnosis, and interventions to prevent overdiagnosis.

As a teaser, I present to you the summary tables from the article:

We all might argue about the exact contributors to overdiagnosis, but this list (based on a review of the literature) is pretty thorough. Fortunately there is hope to combat the problem, and some specific examples are given:

See the article or follow Dr Chiolero (@swissepi) on Twitter for more.

Source: http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2015-14060/