Today is World Cancer Day. This year’s theme is “Cancer Myths – Did you know?”, so it’s timely for me to put one prevalent cancer myth to rest.
Whether it’s someone on our Cancer Council Facebook page, our iheard myth-busting website, someone at a dinner party or a chatty taxi driver on the weekend, most of us at Cancer Council have at one time or another been asked the million dollar question: why haven’t we found a cure for cancer?
Taking it a step further are the conspiracy theorists who claim there is a cure for cancer but that the “cancer industry” covers it up. We would be delighted if cancer was eradicated overnight. Most people know someone who has had cancer – it affects one in two Australians by the age of 85 – and indeed personal experience of cancer is often a factor in people wanting to work for a cancer charity.
Latest 2 of 41 commentsView all comments
Tim Mathieson owes us all an apology. He should apologise for apologising for his remarks about prostate cancer this week. Instead of apologising, what Tim Mathieson should have done was make like a tiny-handed Asian lady bum doctor, and lift a defiant middle finger in the direction of the narcs, whingers, screwed-up ideologues and craven opportunists who felt or feigned such burning indignation at his completely innocent little gag.
I am still trying to work out who was meant to be offended by his remark. Was it Asians? Was it women? Was it people with small hands?
Was he making a slight against the big-handed – apologies in advance to any sufferers of gigantism who might be reading this – or was he poking fun, so to speak, at those many men who have had to suffer the ignominy of an Ansell-gloved digit up the date?
Latest 2 of 189 commentsView all comments
Every few months yet another article on the great big PSA testing controversy appears in the national media. Should men be tested? Do more men die with, not from, prostate cancer? Does the test do more harm than good? The debate goes on and on.
But what about Australian men - how are they supposed to decide what to do when the various medical colleges have radically different points of view? What about their GPs - what advice are they supposed to give to patients who ask about PSA testing?
Latest 2 of 27 commentsView all comments
Elvira Brunt is a mysterious figure, born in Backa Palanka on the banks of the Danube in 1957. She allegedly claims to be able to cure cancer by redirecting blood flow through massage. People have told of the eerie power she holds over people, convincing them to believe in her work.
To tell Elvira’s story, you don’t have to back to Backa Palanka, but you do have to go back to a day in 2009. It was one of the strangest days I’ve ever had in a newsroom – and trust me, they can be pretty bloody bizarre places.
This day, though, stands out. I was covering an inquiry into Bogus, Unregistered and Deregistered Health Practitioners. It was mostly about quacks offering dodgy cures for cancer, and people poured out their tales of loved ones frittering away their savings in vain hope.
Latest 2 of 25 commentsView all comments
It’s that time of the year again when supermarket shelves are pinkwashed. A flush spreads across water bottles and tissue boxes, and ruddy ribbons are everywhere.
It’s fair to say that we are more aware of breast cancer than any other cancer.
So how is it possible that the entire world can be swathed in pink yet women still have such a fundamental misunderstanding of this disease?
Latest 2 of 86 commentsView all comments
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. The ‘Kylie effect’ – when women rushed to get checked for breast cancer after Ms Minogue was diagnosed with it in 2005 – was a perfect example of that.
Here’s how it goes: Young Kylie talks about her cancer. Women everywhere rush to get tested thanks to the hyperawareness created and some lives are saved. Kylie gets awarded a doctorate for her work promoting breast cancer awareness
But other women are unnecessarily exposed to radiation or given invasive treatment because of ‘false positives’ – an imperfect system accidentally finds they have cancer, but they don’t. Younger women flock to get tested, although age is the biggest risk factor.
Latest 2 of 67 commentsView all comments
Confession: I have celebrity sympathy fatigue. My initial reaction to news of Grant Hackett’s rampage, to Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s breast cancer diagnosis, to the story of former footballer Tony Modra’s “miracle” premature baby was:
Who cares? There are bigger things to worry about.
In fact, my reaction was stronger than ‘who cares’. It was anger that we elevate their problems over those of mere mortals, and by doing so diminish the everyday experiences of people doing it even tougher.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women have experienced domestic violence in the form of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Many of them suffer systematic abuse over years. Some die. Half of us will get cancer by the age of 85. Horrid, blossoming cancers with devastating treatments that leave people hollowed out. Treatments that delay death rather than cure.
Latest 2 of 185 commentsView all comments
There are two reasons to eat less meat: its consumption is causing environmental problems and it’s bad for our health.
Last year, at a restaurant in Sydney’s inner city suburb of Surry Hills, my friend announced that she had become a part-time vegetarian. As we passed her the tofu stir-fry, we mocked her decision to only to eat meat on weekends. It seemed half-hearted, flippant, and token.
However, her reasons were compelling. Full-time vegetarianism felt too extreme, but part-time was a doable compromise that would have some positive impact. We could mock her, but it was more than we were doing. Imagine the difference we could make to the environment if we all cut down on meat consumption.
Latest 2 of 149 commentsView all comments
Cancer and heart disease each claim a third of all deaths Australia-wide. Of these two, it is cancer which has a curious hold on our purse-strings, securing the lion’s share of both government and philanthropic giving. Cancer and kids are the magic words in giving. In contrast there is a real element of “your time is up” when it comes to your ticker.
On hard eligibility and based on economic return, our Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme seems close to the mark. With 33 per cent of deaths due to heart disease, 34 per cent of our PBS funds heart, stroke and vascular disease.
But government isn’t perfect. Program funding for cardiovascular disease is just $8.6 million, compared to $2.5 billion for cancer, $1.6 billion for diabetes and $1.4 billion for mental health. Of the heart disease categories, stroke has long been the poor cousin with only a tiny fraction of Australians getting gold standard care.
Latest 2 of 15 commentsView all comments
Lying on a cold table in an unfamiliar place and undergoing a core biopsy was probably one of the most traumatic events of my life. I was frightened, confused, hurting and, yes, I cried - but not just for myself.
As I lay there, experiencing a needle digging around inside me and having small pieces of flesh cut from my body, I thought about the animals in laboratories who are subjected to similar experiences.
Of course, I had been given some analgesic, the process was explained to me and ultimately it was for my own benefit… not so the case for lab animals.
Latest 2 of 361 commentsView all comments
Every good marketer will tell you: it’s all about the packaging. In today’s consumerist society, we’ve come to expect that products however basic and functional must be branded in a way that resonates with us through an appealing and somewhat sexy packaging.
But can we think along the same lines when it comes to cancer? Should we judge the potency of a cancer based on its packaging and what makes some cancers sexier than other? Is this simply because some cancer types benefit from celebrity endorsement and that in turn makes the cause sexy? Or is it because the more common and widespread the cancer is, the more attention it receives from the media and consumers?
Every year we see a wave of support come through for cancer types like leukaemia, melanoma and breast cancer with prolific media coverage and increased public awareness whilst other cancers remain in the background, overshadowed either because they have lower incidence rates or because they occur in parts of the body we shy away from publicising.
Latest 2 of 26 commentsView all comments
Big winners from last night’s budget include Australians aged 50 and over at risk of bowel cancer – who until now have been among the nation’s most marginalised.
The $50 million in new bowel cancer screening funds announced by Wayne Swan and health minister Tanya Plibersek on Saturday may end years of discrimination against a cancer that has been at the bottom of the pile when it comes to understanding and reducing the nation’s overall cancer burden.
The pun was intended. I usually refrain from double entendres when discussing bowel cancer, because it is no laughing matter. We should not make light of a human tragedy – and one that’s all the more tragic because of its preventability.
We respect Dr Teo’s work as a brain surgeon and acknowledge his right to express his strong personal opinions about mobile phone safety and health issues.
However, our industry relies on the expert opinion of national and international health agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which have found no convincing evidence that radio frequency exposure within internationally accepted safety limits causes adverse harmful health effects.
The WHO says in its fact sheet Number 193 of June 2011: “A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
Latest 2 of 52 commentsView all comments
There are three undisputed facts about the link between mobile phones and brain tumours. Firstly, the jury is still out. Secondly, the number of mobile phone users is increasing rapidly and currently stands at over five billion worldwide. Thirdly, IF there is a causal link between exposure to non-ionising radiation and brain tumours, then the social and financial consequences would be devastating and on a scale never before witnessed in history.
With over twenty one million mobile phones in use in Australia, why are we not spending the resources on finding the answer? Perhaps the answer is one that all of us would rather not imagine. Could those with a vested interest be misguiding us?
The other, less divisive explanation is that epidemiologists and scientists truly believe that the jury is no longer out and that there is absolutely no link.
Latest 2 of 159 commentsView all comments
It’s no longer enough that the Beautiful People taunt us Mere Mortals with their poreless, flawless skin, their lack of bingo wings, their perfectly proportioned torsos – now they feel they have to teach us stuff as well.
This desire to prove they are more than just underfed clothes hangers began with the beauty competitions where for some bizarre reason uttering inanities about world peace or why the children are our future became part of the judging process. The trend spread with the ease of a $100/ml skin boosting serum and now every model-slash-actor feels duty bound to impart morsels of wisdom to the sad, lumpy, blemish-afflicted masses.
It would be slightly more acceptable if they stuck to honest accounts of the torture they have to inflict on themselves to keep their superhuman beauty (The Day I Accidentally Took Too Many Laxatives Just Before A Long Swimsuit Shoot). But that’s not enough for them. No, now they share all sorts of advice; from parenting to lifestyle to health.
If most of us ran our household budgets like governments run health budgets, we’d be on the streets.
The lack of apparent logic in health funding will be highlighted today by a joint statement from independent MPs Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie, calling on the federal government to expand its National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in the 2012-13 budget.
For the three Independents to make this united plea says two things: they are concerned for the health of the nation and for people in their electorates; and the argument for an urgent expansion of the NBCSP is compelling.
Latest 2 of 34 commentsView all comments
There’s a steaming pile of rubbish out there about health. There’s plenty of money to be made from offering too-good-to-be-true remedies.
Yesterday I was writing a couple of news stories about ways in which people get bamboozled by health-related information and then I started firing up a Punch piece on them. Then I realised I’d written it all before. Bullshit is everywhere, and it’s a billion-dollar industry and people want magic pills.
So rather than repeat myself I thought I’d just list five of the stories that have crossed my desk recently and made me want to tear out my hair and run screaming into the street. And if you know of others, let me know. It’s not that we ever run short of subjects for The Punch’s regular I Call Bullshit column, but there’s a sadistic pleasure in seeing that particular cup runneth over.
Latest 2 of 224 commentsView all comments
When you think of breast cancer, what image do you think of?
For many: a pink ribbon. But an American photographer has developed a different picture.
David Jay took portraits of breast cancer patients after treatment in order to illustrate an honest picture of life after cancer. It’s called the Scar Project. He wants women to recognise their beauty after masectomies, which are undoubtedly damaging to the self-image of many breast cancer patients. You can find the pictures, which are obviously graphic, here.
Jay explained to The Daily Muse:
The SCAR Project is primarily meant to be an awareness campaign for young women. It’s not about taking beautiful pictures of women with breast cancer but rather about taking honest pictures of women with breast cancer.
I get emails from women of all ages, all over the world, who have breast cancer. They frequently say things like, “I haven’t felt like a woman since my surgery,” “I haven’t gotten undressed in front of my husband yet,” “I don’t let my children see me naked,” but that seeing these images has changed their perception of who they are—changed their life. They see the women in the images and think, “Well, if you look beautiful after this, then perhaps I am still beautiful, too.”
More of that interview here. What do you reckon? Should cancer be characterised a little more honestly in pop culture - that there is a masectomy behind that pink ribbon? Or do we need to use euphemisms when it comes to matters like illness and war sometimes? Do you think Jay’s portraits are empowering for women? Disturbing? Distressing?
It’s Wednesday. What else is on your mind?
Latest 2 of 161 commentsView all comments
Well, enough people have called me an arsehole on this website, so bugger it. Let’s talk about that part of my anatomy.
Specifically, let’s talk about the colonoscopy I had a couple of years ago. And let’s do so in the spirit of Movember, a charity which raises money for two major men’s health issues – depression and prostate cancer.
Movember ended yesterday. Hopefully that means there’ll be a few less Boonies and Mervs prowling the streets. Last year, Movember raised $70 million globally. This year it’ll be $93 million. Much of that money goes to medical research. Some also goes towards awareness programs. That’s what this article, with it’s admittedly vulgar headline, is all about.
Latest 2 of 70 commentsView all comments
Growing up as a girl in England, manners and etiquette were drummed into me. My mother wore white gloves to go to the shops and we were never allowed to eat in the streets.
Our private thoughts and concerns would never be discussed in public. So not surprisingly then, never ever would a lady discuss her ‘bits down there’ - not even with the people closest to her or her doctor.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Latest 2 of 108 commentsView all comments
“Raising awareness” is a catchcry for cancer events. Prostate cancer awareness is complicated like no other cancer by the mixed messages on early detection.
Urologists and pathologists urge men over 40 to get tested regularly; others in the clinical community involved in cancer screening advise men to make an informed choice about being tested, after discussing their family history and other personal concerns with their GPs.
Why the debate? Because there’s no screening test that adequately distinguishes between an early-stage prostate cancer that may lead to a patient’s death if untreated and a cancer that will do no harm in the patient’s lifetime.
Latest 2 of 66 commentsView all comments
It’s about time we show our true colours. Thanks to Coco Chanel, dark, brown skin that used to be only associated with the working class was redefined as “sun-kissed”.
Since then, the Western world has regarded bronzed skin as the symbol of chic and affluent jetsetters who can afford to travel all year round. Celebrities and models compete for the best tan. Many aspire to perfect the St Tropez look.
In fact the St Tropez look is so highly sought after that a whole range of fake tan product is named St Tropez – a town where its seaside resorts are frequented by rich guests in the summer. Things work somewhat differently in Asia though.
What is the cigarette plain packaging legislation?
From July 2012 the Australian Government plans to prohibit all brand logos, fonts, colours and promotional wording on cigarette packaging. Cigarettes will come in olive green boxes displaying prominent safety warnings and the name of the brand and variant printed in standard size, font and position.
Why is Labor taking on Big Tobacco?
They are the only target left that is less popular than Julia Gillard.
Does plain packaging infringe on freedom of choice?
Studies have shown most smokers cannot distinguish between brands in blind trials and the perceived differences are often an artefact of subtle cues in the colour, logos and design on the packaging. Nevertheless, tobacco companies spend millions of dollars perfecting the positive associations evoked by cigarette packaging and consumers have a right to have their free choices subconsciously influenced by them.
Latest 2 of 74 commentsView all comments
“He…did not battle his illness bravely. Nor was he courageous in the face of death,” read the bold, opening paragraph of the obituary for the British journalist. John Diamond, a man almost as famous for his ten-year marriage to celebrity Nigella Lawson as the long and public battle with throat cancer that he lost in March 2001.
It was a fitting tribute. Diamond adamantly refused to fight his battle with cancer “bravely” and chose instead to write about his illness, in a raw and unforgiving fashion, in a weekly column for The Times newspaper in London.
Honesty was his only policy, as the quote below the fold reveals.
Last week Penbo railed against Cancer Council advice that drinking any alcohol at all was a cancer risk. The Cancer Council responded, saying they were just relaying the science. Now, winemakers have their say.
Many of the posts in response to the article by the Cancer Council Australia’s chief lobbyist Paul Grogan picked up the basic flaw in his argument, but as winemakers are one of the targets of CCA’s latest media flurry I would like to add my two cents’ worth.
Grogan’s defensive cries that they “don’t make this stuff up”, but that is not what people are accusing them of. The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia acknowledges that a link has been found between alcohol and a level of cancer risk, just as there is a link between numerous other activities in life and cancer risk. That is not new news, despite recent headlines.
Plain packaging of tobacco products has great potential to reduce the appeal of smoking, particularly among young people, and should be supported if Australians want to see death and disease from tobacco use continue to decline.
Simple, really. But unfortunately the facts have been difficult to read amid the smoke and mirrors, sound and fury. So consider this:
Fact: Glossy, stylised cigarette packets are a valuable marketing tool for attracting new smokers. This has been shown in Cancer Council research and dozens of other Australian and international studies, not to mention documents obtained from tobacco companies.
Latest 2 of 81 commentsView all comments
Save us from former Party leaders – particularly if they’ve got a memoir to spruik.
Former Labor leader Mark Latham has been suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome for years now. I was one of those dopes who admired him when he bounced onto the political scene – thirsty for someone with a bit of personality, a break from the beige. He railed against the ‘new political correctness’; he was a boofhead with a penchant for biffo, but he was fun.
Now he’s really jumped the shark and joined the conga line of suckholes who studied Post-Politics PR 101. The main rule of PPPR101 is simple: Court confected outrage at every opportunity.
Latest 2 of 140 commentsView all comments
The after effects of the quake and tsunamis in Japan will cause clear and on-going pain and suffering for years, while the risks from the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors look to be subsiding - see here for the latest updates. Meanwhile, Geoff Russell argues that any and all risks need to be put in perspective.
Residents living in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plant face some considerable cancer risks during coming decades. They will come primarily from cigarettes, red meat, alcohol and salty foods. These should hardly be called risks, since each will definitely cause tens of thousands of new cancer cases every single year throughout Japan.
An additional possibility, a potential risk, hardly visible in comparison, may come from radiation as a result of the quake and tsunami damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Latest 2 of 45 commentsView all comments
The controversies that have arisen between complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) and conventional medical practice may come from a difference in their origins.
Conventional medicine is based on evidence, often derived from randomised clinical trials, resulting in detailed knowledge about the likely benefits and side effects. This information can help a patient decide on a treatment recommendation. Moreover, how the medicine works is often known.
CAMs are not supported by the same type of evidence. Their proposed mechanisms of action do not accord with the way modern science believes the body works. “Evidence” is commonly from testimonials or generations of use, with little information that would allow a patient to judge their chance of responding. Although the evidence produced for conventional medicine can create uncertainty, CAMs are often promoted without that uncertainty.
Latest 2 of 61 commentsView all comments
The word ‘cancer’ still strikes fear into the minds of many people. The idea that a person can be walking about, apparently healthy, but secretly hosting a opportunistic disease which may have no cure, remains a concern for many. Add the rigours of chemotherapy treatment, and it is easy to understand the sentiments.
Yet some of the most common cancers can be prevented, or treated successfully, if detected early enough. Breast cancer is an example. A free screening program was introduced in 1991.
It provides free biennial mammograms to women aged 50 – 69 with no clinical manifestations of malignancy. Women in their 40s and over 70 can also access the program. The cost of the service is about $150 million a year.
Latest 2 of 47 commentsView all comments
Christopher Hitchens is dying. That the 61-year-old’s body has finally given out after four decades of heavy smoking and drinking enough “to kill or stun the average mule” on a daily basis comes as little surprise to anyone, least of all the man himself. In an archly elegant and coolly analytical column for Vanity Fair, Hitchens has described how advanced his oesophageal cancer is and how he “can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair; I have been taunting the Reaper for into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me.”
No doubt, the now near-mandatory beatification of deceased public figures that saw Princess Di transformed from (in Hitchens’ own clear-eyed description) “a disco-loving airhead” to the People’s Princess, Steve Irwin from a cringe-inducing national embarrassment to a beloved folk hero and Kerry Packer from a ruthless business titan to kind-hearted philanthropist in mystical communion with the common man will all too soon befall Hitchens.
It will be interesting to see what kind of obituaries will be written by those on the progressive side of politics and, in particular, how they deal with Hitchens’ refusal to toe the party line in recent years. For decades, the brilliant, acid-tongued Brit was one of the Left’s fiercest and most effective ideological warriors and that rarest of all beasts — a radical intellectual capable of engaging and entertaining a mainstream audience.
Linda McCartney was cool. She wore pale denim jeans, faded floral caftans and waistcoats and cut her perfect blond hair into a long mullet and spiked up the fringe.
She took photographs of the Rolling Stones, married the best Beatle and gave birth to four children.
It was the late 1960s; the beginning of rock star mania and bohemian chic and Linda nailed it. Not only that, she passed it on.
Latest 2 of 3 commentsView all comments
Last Friday I did the unthinkable – I switched off my mobile phone.
At first there was the separation anxiety, not unlike the cravings one feels when on a diet, that insatiable yearning for something you know you can’t have. Then there was the involuntary impulse to reach into my pocket to check the phone for a text message, email or a missed call. Every look at the blank screen was disappointing.
As lunchtime approached, I’d become suitably acclimatised to this change to my daily routine. I read the newspaper uninterrupted over a strong Irish tea. It makes you realise how much the mobile impacts on everyday life. I use it far too much. If you ask me, enough is enough.
Latest 2 of 40 commentsView all comments
My dad was a pack a day smoker of Marlboro Reds, he died of cancer in 1996. This is a picture of my three brothers and I carrying him into the funeral service in his coffin.
If you look carefully you will notice the coffin is painted as a carton of cigarettes, Marlboro Reds to be exact (it was painted on my dad’s request by my talented sister Tania Ferrier).
Dad loved his smokes and didn’t appreciate anyone saying he couldn’t smoke. In fact, just before dad died he asked me to give his eulogy and remind everyone that he wanted to be cremated so he ‘could light up one last time’. He was a relatively conservative chap - but one with a wicked sense of humour, and I guess a fierce sense of brand loyalty.
Latest 2 of 192 commentsView all comments
Damn it’s tough to lose weight in mid-age.
I think back to my 20s and 30s when see sawing weight meant gaining just a few kilos and the top end of my weight spectrum was 12 kilos lighter than I am now.
I tried a personal trainer but having to drive across the city to exercise in the dark was a drag.
Latest 2 of 64 commentsView all comments
The liberation that several near death experiences in quick succession gives you is, well, liberating. And on that note fellas, just how are your testicles today?
I ask this because I am quite convinced that few people realise that the ‘boys’ begin their existence as ovaries (a foetus starts out with ovaries, which early in the pregnancy descend to the groin to emerge as gonads, producing a male child, or stay in their originating location and produce a female baby) – yup – those mysterious, and little discussed bits within women that dictate an enormous amount of the female physiology, health and reproductive capabilities are just as necessary to a woman, as testes are to a man. Ovaries are a woman’s battery packs. Are you getting my drift here?
Let me have another sip from my glass of neat Vodka – slice of lemon and a chunk of ice (I will no longer pretend to drink champagne as I detest the stuff and find it such a clichéd, girly drink – there’s that liberation again) as I paint a picture for you.
I have just survived a number of pulmonary embolisms – blood clots to my lungs, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my pelvis, five ovarian tumours, life threatening surgery, oh, and the summer school holidays and a home renovation.
Latest 2 of 71 commentsView all comments
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…