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December 30 2011


Very public health

Watching the remarkable Xeni Jardin tweet her mammogram and cancer diagnosis, then blog eloquently about it, then crowdsource opening up her own MRI data makes me ask: Why are we so secretive about sickness and health? And what do we lose because we are?

The answers to the first questions are fairly obvious. First, we keep our sicknesses secret, we say, because we fear we could lose insurance. Except insurance companies force us to reveal our medical histories anyway. And let’s hope that Obamacare — may it survive the Supreme Court — succeeds in outlawing the denial of health coverage due to preexisting conditions. Next, we fear that we could lose jobs. Except in cases where a condition would affect job safety, shouldn’t employers be told that they cannot discriminate on the basis of health? Whether or not society chooses to address these issues through legislation, my point is that it’s possible to do so.

The other reason we keep sickness secret — the bigger reason — is stigma. We don’t want people to know we’re ill. But in this day and age, why should anyone be ashamed of being sick? To be clear, I am not saying that anyone should ever be forced to reveal health information. But why should our norms, stigmas, and economic considerations force us not to reveal it?

Imagine if we didn’t feel compelled to hide our illnesses. Imagine if we could be open about our health. What good could come of that?

We could learn more about correlations, which could yield information about causation and even cures. Given large data sets, we could find out that people who get a disease share common behaviors or characteristics. We might gain the opportunity to discover an environmental cause to a local outbreak of, say, breast cancer, enabling a community to fix the condition and prevent more cases.

Of course, I want to emphasize the conditional: correlation *could* help. One data point is never meaningful: That I’ve contracted one heart condition and two cancers since being at the World Trade Center on 9/11 is meaningless — unless there are many others in the same boat, and even then, one mustn’t jump to conclusions about causation. Still, more data is always better than less.

With openness about health, we could do a better job connecting people who share conditions to get information and support and each other. I am on the board of Learning Ally, formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, and at our last meeting, I was struck by the barriers that stigmas put in the way of young people getting the organization’s help. I heard how getting our software on iPods has helped more kids use the service because they no longer have to carry around a special device that marks them as different — stigma. I heard a mother say that school officials warned her that her child would be labeled — stigma — if she got him appropriate services, but she said she’d eagerly embrace the label if it got her son the help he needed.

On my blog, I’ve been in a debate about the recommendation by a government panel that men shouldn’t be given the blood test for prostate cancer anymore because, statistically, it hasn’t been shown to save lives. That’s because medical science can’t yet distinguish between fast- and slow-growing prostate cancer. I say men should get the test. I say we should be talking openly about our prostates as women have fought to talk about breast cancer. More information and communication is always better than less.

The real question is what men choose to do when they find out — through a biopsy following the blood test — that they have cancer. Perhaps more men should choose what the doctors call watchful waiting over surgery. But, you see, the problem is that we don’t have *enough* data to make a good decision. I want to know, based on the largest possible population, how long it took prostate cancer to spread after it was found. Then I could decide how long to watch and wait. But I don’t have that information. So I chose to get the cancer out of me. I could make that choice only because I had the test. I had my own data. If I had the data of millions more men, I could make wiser decisions.

How could get get more data?

Step one is to encourage men to talk about their prostates — and, yes, sorry, their penises — so we disarm the stigma about it and get more men to be aware and get tested and share their experience.

Step two is to create the means to open up and share as much health information as possible so researchers, doctors, and hackers can dig into it and find correlations and patterns and questions worth pursuing, perhaps leading to answers.

When I talk about the principles of an open society in Public Parts, this is what I mean. Rather than reflexively declaring that sharing information about ourselves — our bodies as well as our thoughts and actions — is dangerous, we must stand back and ask what benefit could come from such data, now that we have better technological means to open it up, gather it, and analyze it.

Only then can we balance the benefits and risks and decide, as a society, how open we want to be, how open we should and need to be — and why. That is the kind of discussion about privacy and our changing norms I’d like to hear. Let’s not just talk about what can go wrong now but also what could go right.

January 21 2011


Cancer, the sequel

I’m either a two-time loser or a two-time winner, depending on how I fill my glass.

I have cancer again, this time in the thyroid (last time in the prostate). I had half of my thyroid taken out in 2002; it had no cancer. The second half was just excised (I’m running out of spare body parts). Just got the pathology report. Unfortunately, it did not include the most beautiful word in the English language: “benign.”

But it did include what may be the second-most comforting word: “contained.” My Sloan-Kettering surgeon said that because the tumor was small and contained, he’s not going to move to the next common step in treatment: radioactive iodine. He’ll watch it with sonograms and if something does grow back, I’ll be glowing in the dark. So now, every six months, we’ll track my two cancers, hoping for no reruns.

I debated whether to blog about this, just because at some point, you needn’t care about my ailments and I am wary of sounding like I live in the old folks’ home (you know the joke all your grandparents have told: time for the organ recital). I’m also quite aware — especially after seeing my fellow patients in the hospital — that I have cancer lite; beside my roommate, who had Steve Jobs’ reported first operation, the ominous Whipple procedure, I have a paper cut.

I believe in sharing if there’s something to be accomplished with it. So I come back to that word: “contained.” In both these cases, my cancer was contained because, thank goodness and modern medicine, it was caught early.

So that’s the moral to this story: Go see your damned doctor if you haven’t recently. My thyroid got swollen the first time around and that’s what led to surgery and then monitoring. My doctor testing my PSA caught my prostate cancer. I’m overdue with a colonoscopy — and sure as hell do not want a hat trick. But I will go as soon as I can. You should, too.

Before my thyroid surgery, I told you that there was a risk of damage to my voice. My foes will be sorry to know that I am still in full voice (and temper). The last time I had the operation — it’s rare that one can perform consumer comparisons — my throat hurt like hell for more than a week but this time not. There are two more splashes in the glass, over the half mark.

I’m blessed that the cancers were caught and contained. It’s creepy knowing that some leftover rogue cells could come back and wondering whether other brands of the disease are building elsewhere. Yesterday at a conference on privacy, someone used that word to describe online tracking and sharing: “creepy.” Ad targeting is not creepy. Cancer is. But I keep reminding myself where my glass is.

I’ll give you an update about my prostate another day.

I appreciate every time you, my friends, wish me well. But I’m not fishing for that so you needn’t. Instead, please go see your doc. It’s check-up time.

January 26 2010


New Colon Cancer Treatments

If so, then it should be take only by men and not women. These are all marketing gimmick which has no substance at all. The benefits go beyond the relationship between resveratrol and prostate cancer. We will see how it works, the hurdles to take its full advantage and how to overcome them.

New Colon Cancer Treatments

Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound. It is produced de novo by the seed producing plants like grapes and peanuts when under attack by pathogens and fungi. It is present in the skin of red grapes while its quantity is very minimal in peanuts.

The pathogens and fungi that attack the plants also attack human. That is how the research started and separated this compound and found its great antioxidant benefits.

How the weeds destroy the paddy field if not weeded out, the same way there are many weeds in our body. While we inherit many weeds, we also inhale many weeds. These are all due to external pollution. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are all so much contaminated that it is now becoming next to impossible to reverse our lifestyle diseases. We wrinkle at 30, grey at 35, have heart attacks at 40 and stroke at 45. We live an unhealthy life and leave.

There is only one solution to the above unhealthy situation. Provide enough of nutrition. Nutrition deficiency leads to immune deficiency. What is immune deficiency?

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You would have heard about oxidation. How the cut apple changes into brown and iron gets rusted the oxygen we take oxidize our cells and kill them. We have 100 trillion cells in our body. Every 720 days all these die and renewed afresh. In order to compete with this degeneration, we should infuse enough antioxidant nutrition to regenerate the cells. If we do not do that, we will only produce free radicals in our body which will have their own pathway and take the form of cancerous cells. These will have a separate blood path to enjoy like the weeds enjoy and destroy us like the way they destroy the paddy.

The antioxidant nutrition provide proton to the free radicals, scavenge the dead cells and ensure our immune system is clean, neat and tidy. All nutrition has antioxidant in it but with varying degrees. But few of them have more potency and resveratrol is considered to be one of them. This led to the relationship between resveratrol and prostate cancer.

Whenever pathogens affect us, our cells produce a substance called cytokines to communicate between the cells to identify the pathogen affected cells. If we maintain good immune system, it works and the immune molecules will identify the affected cells and provide the remedy. Sometimes, cytokines themselves are subjected to oxidation and the cells will not be able to communicate to identify the pathogen affected cells. Inflammatory cytokines are formed. This is how the merry starts to the bacteria affected cells like weeds. They start thriving leaving to fatality. This can happen anywhere in our body and in prostate gland also.

Resveratrol reduces the activity of inflammatory cytokines and helps to prevent the cancer formation.

If you take 25 mg of resveratrol pill, hardly less than 5 ng is found in one ml of blood. Still you believe that French paradox is real and you can keep taking red wine as well fatty food to neutralize the fat impact, I am sorry you found an excuse to consume more red wine and more fatty food!

Do not look for resveratrol and prostate cancer. Look for good immune system wherein resveratrol can also play a good role along with other nutrition. Only a holistic approach with synergy can work for you along with daily work out. I am leading a healthy life offered by a fantastic nutrition supplement that has more than 70 natural herbs and salts. It is little expensive because it comes with enteric coated technology wherein the resveratrol does not dissolve immediately and flushed out. It goes to the blood to provide its full health benefit. You go to my website and look out for different unique information and I am sure you will find a convincing answer for the nexus between resveratrol and prostate cancer.

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