Saturday, October 16, 2010

Politically Correct Cancer Funding

You cannot turn on the television without becoming acutely aware that it is National Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Especially on Monday Night -- there is some clown with a pink chin strap grinning for the camera.  'Hi Mom!  National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month was September, but you didn't know that did you? Why is that?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, prostate cancer incidence rates and death rates are higher than breast cancer.  Prostate cancer has the highest incidence rate of all cancers.  Moreover, only lung cancer has a higher death rate than prostate cancer.

So why all the hoopla over breast cancer?

It is more than just hoopla.  It is serious federal tax money.  Federal breast cancer spending is higher than that of any cancer but lung cancer, by a wide margin.  According to the NIH, breast cancer funding for 2010 was $833 million, including $111 million of stimulus funding.  Here are the numbers for the top four cancers:

Federal breast cancer funding is more than double that of prostate cancer, and it has been for a while.  Despite all the cancer funding, incidence rates for all kinds of cancers change by about 2% per year.   Massive spending has failed to do much but stimulate researchers pockets.

Don't get me wrong, I love boobs!  I hate cancer, and well I love my prostate.  It just seems to me the grand standing for breast cancer is all out of proportion with the problem as compared to other cancers, including male-specific prostate cancer.  It's just a bandwagon.

Here is a test: what color is the prostate cancer awareness ribbon?  Since prostate cancer is a bigger killer, shouldn't our response, and the use of our precious tax dollars, be more in proportion?  

Remember to drop a dime for prostate cancer next September, and spread the word...


Warren said...

From what I understand, both the Salk and Sabin vaccines which defeated polio were developed solely through public funds -- The March of Dimes.

"That campaign asked the public to donate only coins. Yet that campaign enjoyed such success that the Foundation acquired more money for polio than the total then contributed to support research on either heart disease or cancer."

O Bloody Hell said...

>through public funds -- The March of Dimes.

The problem with the term "public funds" is that it sounds as though it refers to government handouts -- i.e. tax funding -- which clearly does not apply.

"It was funded through private charity" would be a far more accurate statement.

Bob in LA said...

Before the federal government decided it would be the safety net of choice, the research funder of choice, and the medical care provider of choice, people belonged to charitable societies. People with disposable income spent a lot of money at these societies. There were many many charitable societies, including the March of Dimes. Now, the feds have pushed that aside, sucked up the disposable income and determined the priorities.

It used to be people had to rely on their families for handouts, then the local church, then the local government, then the state government, then, finally the feds.

You and I should determine the priorities, we should be at liberty to do so!

Enough is Enough!

MaxedOutMama said...

Warren makes a good point - government funding of such initiatives inevitably is determined by politics, and the priorities of politics often are not those of the population at large.

I've never lost anyone in my family to breast cancer, although a very good friend of my mother's did die from it. But I have lost two maternal close relations to prostrate cancer, and my brothers are therefore considered high risk. Therefore I would rather fund more studies on prostate cancer than on breast cancer. Government funding robs me of my choice in this.

Of course, having government bureaucrats in control over what must be covered in insurance (as health reform does) means that we will all lose far more choice in the years to come. I can well imagine that older men may find PSA testing cut from Medicare coverage after a certain age, for example.

The fight over Provenge this year is an example. It seems to have taken a lot of pressure to get CMS to allow coverage of an FDA-approved treatment. I don't know the official status; I do know that CMS had a meeting with the manufacturer to approve this treatment.

In 2004 CMS reduced reimbursement rates for a particular type of prostate treatment, and lo and behold, all of a sudden many men weren't getting it.

I think the high death rate from prostate cancer should be examined more carefully to see if it is related to politics.

MaxedOutMama said...

Okay, currently CMS is going to hold a November panel review about Provenge. Provenge update.

It's important to understand several things. Number 1, this decision may be linked to the theory advanced by those such as Berwick (recess appointment) that Medicare shouldn't cover such treatments. Number 2, Medicare is supposed to cover all FDA-approved treatments. So this is a big departure from standard practice.

For what it's worth, at least one breast cancer foundation has been fighting tooth and nail to attempt to ensure Medicare coverage for Provenge, because they know they're next.

Anonymous said...

Back in 1989 Asa Barber, in the then regular column "Men" that appeared in Playboy magazine mad an interesting statement. If he were in charge, he would terminate all government funding of female-specific disease research until the life expectancy of men caught up to the life expectancy of women. Currently, men die 5+ years younger than women, on average.

I think he was on to a good idea there.

Warren said...


I meant to say, "From what I understand, both the Salk and Sabin vaccines which defeated polio were developed solely through PRIVATE funds."