Need some more evidence that our “health care” system is really a “disease care” system? Have a look at one of our latest strategies for battling lung cancer. Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of this terrible disease. Most lung cancer cases affect middle-aged people and are due in large part to smoking. Tragically, lung cancer is usually diagnosed too late for surgery or drug-based therapies to save the patient’s life. Although smoking rates are declining in the U.S., they are still on the rise worldwide. So what to do about this growing problem?
Well, a recent study funded by Genentech, a pharmaceutical manufacturer of anti-cancer drugs, showed that yearly CAT scans done on people who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and who were between the ages of 55 and 79, could cut their risk of dying from lung cancer by up to 20 percent. Twenty percent is a significant drop, so based on this study, the U.S. Preventive Task Force has recommended screening this group, which in the U.S. numbers around 10 million people. With the average cost of a CAT scan coming to $200 to $400 per person, the extra screenings would cost a total of about $2 billion a year. Seems like a small price to pay to save 20 percent of lung cancer victims, right?
Not so fast. What no one took into consideration is how many lives would be saved if we used those resources to help people quit smoking—or better yet, to never start smoking in the first place. This wouldn’t just help prevent lung cancer but other serious conditions as well, including emphysema and some kinds of heart disease.
The fact that these options weren’t even considered is perhaps understandable when you note that a drug company funded the study. But that no one else in our “health care” system did either? That, folks, is the sign of a broken system.
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