Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am a passionate advocate for increased funding in the fight against cancer, especially prostate cancer. However, sometimes it is a good idea to push back from the table and evaluate the true nature of a situation.
The Harris poll has published a recent survey which concluded that cancer is the most feared disease in America. This fear has been directly reflected in our healthcare policy since the 1970s.
In 1971 we passed the National Cancer Act that declared cancer to be “the major health concern of Americans today.” Not surprising, cancer today remains a major health concern today.
Today, we allocate twice as much funding to combat cancer than we do to combat heart disease. Yet, heart disease kills more Americans than cancer! What about the fear of cancer, this adds anxiety and stress to many people and anxiety and stress are immune-suppressant, so our fears work against our health.
This panic of cancer is made clear in the Harris Poll that showed that cancer is the most feared disease in the United States, 41% of reporters indicated that cancer is their biggest fear. Following cancer was Alzheimer ‘s Disease that came in only at 31 percent.
This hypersensitivity to cancer has brought many excellent results. It has changed people’s behavior as exemplified by the reduction of smoking. It also has changed government policies as the increase of significant taxes on cigarettes to discourage people from smoking.
In the end this hypersensitivity as brought us to a time in which we have been able to reduce many people’s risk factors for developing some cancers as well as creating improved medical treatments which have extended many people’s lives. In some instances some terrible cancers can now be controlled and have become a chronic problem.
The National Institute of Health today spends more than twice the money on researching the molecular biology of cancer ($5.4 billion a year) than on figuring out the molecular mechanisms of heart disease ($2 billion a year), which kills far more people.
I am not recommending that we cut our cancer expenditures, but instead we find the way to increase our investment in heart disease research. I know, you are scratching your head at this post, but the truth is the truth. We need to find a way to marshal our recourses and find a way to combat both cancer and heart disease. They both are significant burdens on our economy, our families and our life.
Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.