Don’t Fund the Fight Against Cancer

doctor-sxchu_kurhanI’ve got a proposal that will upset and/or confuse you. But hear me out, because this can save us all a lot of money and arguing.

We need to stop funding the war on cancer.

I’m not saying that we should stop caring about cancer. And I’m not saying that individuals or private companies shouldn’t work to eradicate cancer. (But I do think that much of the money that we spend to fight cancer is misapplied and wasteful.)

For 50 years, our country has been waging a war on cancer, and where has it gotten us? Sure, we’ve made some progress and helped a lot of people. But over the past five decades, we have spent a lot of money, and we now have more questions and problems than when we started.

Don’t think I’m cold and heartless. Right now, I have family members who are battling cancer. I want them to be healed. But does that mean we should allocate so much time, funding, and attention to it?

I guess the question comes down to the value of a human life. (About $7 million, according to the EPA, but I’d like to think we are worth much more than that.) Dr. Otis Brawley, Director of the Cancer Center at Emory University, says that if we had more funding, we could save more lives. But how much government funding should be applied to reduce the deaths from breast cancer from 40,000 per year to 32,000?

The biggest issue for me is the area of responsibility. Why should the general population shoulder the burden for what is mostly not their fault? For many who suffer from cancer, it is inherited as a family trait. Don’t make me pay for your family problems. I blame your parents for your cancer!

And what about the choices that we make, which can lead to cancer? Some recent studies indicate an epigenetic link between nutrition and cancer. I blame your own choices for your cancer!

Disclaimer: I fall into this category. In my undergraduate and graduate years in chemistry, I did cancer research. As we worked with carcinogenic substances, to try to synthesize compounds that exhibit anti-cancer properties, we often joked, “We gotta’ cure it before we get it.”

Maybe I’m being too harsh, or hitting a little too close to home, by assigning blame for cancer. For the most part, we just don’t know the ultimate cause(s), despite the trillions of dollars spent since this “war” was declared. Maybe cancer is just a product of this messed up world.

In that case, let’s stop allocating so much government money towards a supposed cure, and funnel that money to other areas. Instead of a national policy of treatment and research, let’s just help them enjoy the life they have, as they suffer from cancer.

Our country is spending $125 billion each year just for the treatment of cancer, not counting all the money for research. Just divide that with the roughly 1.7 million new cases of cancer each year, and all the victims walk away with about $100,000.

Who’s with me? Who wants to stop funding a treatment for cancer? When we see a cancer victim, can’t we assign blame and responsibility to their parents, the victim himself, or just the fates of the world?

I didn’t think so.

On Second Thought . . .

Now, go back through this article, and replace the word cancer with poverty. (OK, it won’t always make perfect sense, but I did the best I could.)

We don’t (I hope) tell a cancer victim that his situation is his fault. We just help him. We may not have a perfect solution or cure, but we try.

Can’t we apply that same compassion to someone who is in poverty?

We have learned a lot over the years, and we have a lot more to learn. But just because we don’t have a perfect solution doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to help our neighbor, right now.

After all, poverty is a cancer in our culture.

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**image courtesy of Kurhan via sxc.hu

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