Cancer Prevention: How Mind, Body, and Medicine Creates Optimism

Cancer Prevention: How Mind, Body, and Medicine Creates Optimism
woman meditating on beach
Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Cancer is viewed as a unique kind of threat because of the dread it inspires, but in many ways we’ve reached a tipping point where hope and optimism are replacing fear. A healing lifestyle that includes meditation, dietary changes, and a more serious approach to stress is key. Let me go into some detail because cancer is such an important, worrisome issue in everyone’s life, particularly as you grow older.

In its 2017 report on cancer rates, the American Cancer Society reported that overall cancer deaths declined by 25 percent between a peak in 1991 to 2014, the latest date for statistics. The reasons for this decline, however, are not related to an overall cure. That goal has been abandoned once it was discovered that cancer doesn’t behave like one disease but like many. The recent decline has come in bits and pieces at an average rate of around 2 percent a year. Projecting forward, the bottom-line statistic for 2017 was that roughly 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses would be made and 600,000 deaths would be attributed to cancer. In simplest terms, only 1 out of 3 patients would eventually die from their diagnosis. That’s a good baseline for optimism. 

Shift in Attitude Toward Cancer

Just as important as new medical advances, however, was a dramatic change in attitude. Consider a 2015 article in The Lancet that begins with a sentence that would have baffled the cancer field a generation ago: “The nature of cancer control is changing, with an increasing emphasis, fueled by public and political demand, on prevention, early diagnosis, and patient experience during and after treatment.”

If you unpack this sentence, it says several important things:

  • Prevention is beginning to spearhead the overall approach doctors will take to cancer in the future.
  • Cancer is a controllable disease, not always calling for drastic treatment, particularly in older patients with slow-growing cancers like prostate cancer in its early stages.
  • The public fear over cancer is being paid attention to. There are promises of less arduous treatments, and a handful exist.

Treatment to Prevention

If you look at the broad picture, the main reason for optimism has switched from treatment to prevention. This is a turnaround unforeseen even a decade ago, when hope was overwhelmingly placed on more funding for basic research and new drug treatments. It is now generally agreed that up to 50 percent of cancer cases are preventable using already existing knowledge.

Most people already knew about taking aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and so the benefit for cancer is an add-on, not a panacea. In-depth data gathered from a 30-year study following 130,000 people found that those who regularly took at least two adult aspirin a week had a decrease in gastrointestinal cancer of 20 percent and in colorectal cancer of 25 percent. (Other studies have corroborated the usefulness of aspirin as a cancer prevention …read more
Source: Deepak Chopra

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