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Is Breast Cancer an actual Profit Center for Medical Businesses?

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Women are to be forgiven if they are cynical about the war against breast cancer. Even as more and more women seem to be diagnosed with stage 0 precancers called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a November article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that one million American women have been unnecessarily treated for breast cancer in the last three decades. The early stage breast cancers they were diagnosed with would not have proved fatal if left undetected and untreated. What?

 

Since the 1940s women were told to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) from menopause until death to prevent heart disease, dementia and conditions associated with aging. But in 2002 they were told there had been a big mistake:  HRT actually causes breast cancer, heart disease, strokes, blood clots and dementia. So sorry. Few women remembered that the same thing had happened in the 1970s and 80s when HRT was found to cause endometrial cancer. Sorry about that too.

 

(The harm from HRT has been so dramatic, when women quit in 2002, the incidence of US breast cancer fell 15 percent among women with estrogen-fed cancer. 14,000 women who were expected to get breast cancer didn't because they eliminated the source. The same thing happened with endometrial cancer rates in the 1970s--rates dropped when women quit HRT. Thousands of cancers in women were caused not by genes, the environment, lifestyle or family history but Big Pharma.)

 

So it is no surprise that women might be cynical about a recent study in the Lancet that finds women who stay on the blockerbuster cancer drug Nolvadex/tamoxifen for 10 years instead of the usual five years are less likely to die and have cancer recur.

 

The study was partially funded by AstraZeneca who--any guesses?--makes Nolvadex/ tamoxifen. AstraZeneca, formerly Zeneca, co-founded National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a "public relations scam" charges the Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch, even as its parent company, ICI Pharmaceuticals/Imperial Chemicals Industries, manufactured pesticides and organophosphates linked to breast cancer.

 

Some accuse AstraZeneca of literally playing both sides of the street and point out that tamoxifen shares some eerie chemical properties with endocrine disrupting pesticides themselves.

 

The second reason for cynicism is: tamoxifen carries its own risks which are not such a great trade-off except to Big Pharma. "Treatment with 5 years of tamoxifen can cause side-effects such as endometrial cancer and thromboembolic disease and continuing tamoxifen for an additional 5 years is likely to increase these side-effects," says the Lancet article.  3.1 percent of women undergoing the extra 5 years of tamoxifen therapy got endometrial cancer in the study versus 1.6 percent who did have extra years of the drug.

 

There is an increasing backlash among women against such overmedication and overtreatment in light of the medical establishment's abysmal track record.  At a symposium at the American Psychiatric Association's 2010 meeting in New Orleans called "Mood, Memory and Myths: What Really Happens at Menopause," two Wyeth/Pfizer funded speakers tried to resurrect the benefits of hormone replacement therapy. But women in the audience, many of whom were doctors, would have none of it.  One woman who did not identify herself said she was much more interested in how to live with her "tamoxifen brain" from the cancer she now had than another dubious risky treatment from Big Pharma.

 

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