World Cancer Day

This reflection was originally posted on February 4, 2016. 

Virtually every news item I can find on World Cancer Day (guess what day that is!) is from an overseas publication. As somebody whose first reaction is to discount expending massive amounts of resources simply for the purpose of building awareness, this to me speaks to more than one concern I have about our society and the way that it functions.

When we can call for cures when it makes a logically stretchy political point about healthcare costs, it is illogical to: 1) cut both funding for experimental science research and STEM education, 2) criticize efforts to promote healthy lifestyles, 3) preach anti-intellectualism under a guise of avoiding being misled by deliberate misrepresentation.

When the largest concerted effort possibly ever to donate money to funding scientific research becomes a cultural movement that involves numerous government figures splashing themselves with water and encouraging people to donate and still nets less than ONE percent of the purchasing power that has eroded from the NIH budget in the last dozen years, we have a problem.

And, perhaps the point Kelly would make first: when developing countries have five-year survival rates UNDER 20% for types of cancers that have rates of over 90% in places like Canada, Belgium, Norway, Germany, and the US, it is entirely unacceptable for us to act as if raising domestic detection and survival rates is the ultimate goal and assume the rest will be taken care of eventually. (The CONCORD-2 study that noted this disparity, by the way, sampled from 1995 to 2009, so it’s not an issue of a delay of a couple years in implementation.)

My grandfather died from stomach cancer at the age of 57, many years before I was born. My aunt beat the same disease before she turned 45. I would imagine this is still a lesser connection to the disease than most of you have. This is, by definition, a prevalent problem, and one that has equivalent (if not higher) incidence in places where public health hazards are dealt with even more poorly than the disasters in Flint, or Sebring, or Porter Ranch.

We must do more, but we must do with our eyes open.

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