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Letters: On cancer, what does the doctor order?

August 02, 2012

Re "Rethinking cancer," Editorial, July 29

Your commentary that "aggressive measures aren't always best" in cancer treatment is based on a study with subjective end points that create more confusion. All studies have a built-in bias or limitations determined by the authors.

Medicine is not a true science; it is based on clinical experience. The standard of care is determined by the physician. The Medicare Act of 1965, which promoted sub-specialty care and the development of designer drugs, changed everything. Since then, healthcare has been reduced to test and procedure documentation, and the primary care physician has been reduced to gatekeeper.

We must emphasize prevention (such as eliminating tobacco use and adoptinglow-fat diets) and allow the primary care physician to take the responsibility he once had.

We use too much technology today. Healthcare cost control begins with prevention.

Jerome P. Helman, MD

Venice

My 38-year-old daughter died in June after a two-year struggle with breast cancer. When, at age 36, she called her doctor about a lump in her breast, she was not brought in for a mammogram because she was young and at minimal risk for breast cancer. A biopsy several months later showed the lump to be cancerous, even though she was too young.

After six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, six weeks of radiation and more chemo, she died. I don't know if she could have been saved if her doctor had brought her in early for a mammogram; I'll never know.

We need to stop thinking that people are too young or too old to get certain cancers. Anyone can develop cancer, and if the medical establishment wants to avoid lawsuits and unnecessary tests, then it needs to start paying attention to symptoms, regardless of age.

Carol Gendel

San Diego

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