The US spends billions of dollars to save these late-stage patients, trying to devise better drugs and chemotherapies that might kill a cancer at its strongest. This cure-driven approach has dominated the research since Richard Nixon declared war on the disease in 1971. But it has yielded meager results: The overall cancer mortality rate in the US has fallen by a scant 8 percent since 1975. (Heart disease deaths, by comparison, have dropped by nearly 60 percent in that period.) We are so consumed by the quest to save the 566,000 that we overlook the far more staggering statistic at the other side of the survival curve: More than a third of all Americans—some 120 million people—will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their lives. Their illness may be invisible now, but it’s out there. And that presents a great, and largely unexamined, opportunity: Find and treat their cancers early and that 566,000 figure will shrink.
Cancer, in other words, has a perception problem. We lack the ability to see what’s going on inside the body, to gaze through our too-solid flesh and glean information on a molecular level. Conventional medical technologies—blood tests, x-rays, MRIs—can serve as proxies for proximity, but the picture they offer is often incomplete and obscured. Without a way to positively identify illness early, to detect that first spark, medicine will continue to be a last resort.
Why should you think about early disease detection?
Screening typically refers to the use of simple tests across a healthy population in order to identify individuals who may have disease, but do not yet have symptoms.
Often, the earlier a disease is diagnosed, the more likely it is that it can be cured or successfully managed. Managing a disease, especially early in its course, may lower its impact on your life or prevent or delay serious complications. When and how often you get screening tests may depend on your age, gender, family history, lifestyle, and/or current health status. The most common disease associated with “early detection” is cancer. Cancer, in other words, has a perception problem. We lack the ability to see what’s going on inside the body, and see information on a molecular level. Conventional medical technologies—blood tests, x-rays, MRIs—can serve well for proximity, but the picture they offer is often incomplete and obscured. Without a way to positively identify illness early, to detect that first spark, medicine will continue to be a last resort.It is well documented in all fields of medicine that the earliest detection leads to the best outcome.
This chart shows the growth of cancer cells and the implications it can have on successful treatment.
**Data show the time for a breast cancer to double in volume is 25 days to at least 1000 days with a typical value of about 100 days. Depending on breast tissue density and structure, mammography is usually capable of finding breast tumors at approximately 1 cc. Combining this information, we can estimate the usual preclinical time of breast cancer as 30 doublings at 100 day doubling time or a total of 8 years. This is the potential of early detection: To use data instead of drugs, to reveal a cancer before it reveals itself, and to leave the miracles for the patients who really need them.
**Thermography is not a stand-alone test and does not replace mammography or any other imaging device.