Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0669 - Malignant Misinformation

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to participate in a conference call with other colorectal cancer advocates across Canada. I have agreed to participate in the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada's Advocacy Network, a group of people almost all of whom have been or currently are colorectal cancer patients or survivors. The president of the CCAC hosted the call, Barry Stein, himself a survivor and very capable advocate on behalf of colorectal cancer patients.

It was gratifying to hear the voices of people I have read about, those who are battling their own way through treatment and advocating for themselves and others with their provincial governments. The primary goals of the Advocacy Network are to ensure appropriate screening programs and timely access to care.

I was also pleased to hear that another of the advocacy goals included something the CCAC calls Healthy Lifestyles. I had mentioned my concern that scientific evidence is accumulating rapidly about the role of nutrition in preventing and treating cancer. The CCAC had already taken some steps to make healthy living a pillar of their advocacy efforts, something I heartily applaud.

During my period of diagnosis, followed by treatment with radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, I did a substantial amount of research into colorectal cancer, treatment protocols, and self-help options. If you have followed my blog, you may have noticed a thread of frustration with what I am now calling malignant misinformation about nutrition and cancer.

At almost every point when I turned to experts for advice about nutrition, I felt frustration and disappointment. This isn't meant as a criticism of individuals. In fact, the registered dieticians in the supportive care program at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre were uniformly helpful and available. The reason for my frustration and disappointment was systemic. The system by which information about nutrition and cancer is conveyed to the general public in our society is itself sick. The sickness is subtle and pervasive and continues to grow like a malignancy.

How do I know this? I've suspected a problem for quite a long time, but until recently I couldn't articulate what it was. But then I purchased The China Study, the most comprehensive study of nutrition every conducted. Much of the author's lifetime in nutrition and cancer research has revolved around epidemiological and clinical studies of protein consumption, the signal conclusion of which is that high animal protein diets promote cancer and many other degenerative diseases.

But, as Dr. Campbell asks in the book, "Why haven't I heard of this?" The answer is not that scientists are cooking their data and being paid under the table to promote those with vested interests in an animal-based diet. Again, as Dr. Campbell says, "The situation is much worse. The entire system - government, science, industry and media - promotes profits over health, technology over food and confusion over clarity."

If he is correct in his analysis, not only of the data but of the health information systems, then I suspect cancer care advocacy is subject to the same systemic pressures and constraints. If so, I hope to help fix the problem, at least in my small corner of the world.


Anelle said...
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Don Spencer said...

Thanks, Anelle, for sharing your experience. As I move into this whole foods, plant-based diet, one of the things I'll watch is my B12. Fortunately, I'll be getting some blood work done in a couple weeks anyway. That will be a good benchmark.

Colin Campbell, whose work in The China Study I've been reading all week, has a Q&A video on YouTube in which he answers a question about supplements. He only takes B12 and that is mainly to satisfy his wife. But vegans do need to watch their B12.

One thing I'm curious about in your post is whether you think there is a correlation between your low B12 levels and your cancer treatment? Or is it due to diet?



Anelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.