Sunday, March 1, 2009

Defending Breast Cancer


Recently, I was investigating a study done at Harvard measuring the cortisol levels of women waiting for the results of their breast biopsies. Cortisol is, roughly, considered a "stress" hormone. Biopsy results can take 2-7 days to process and get back to the patient.

Basically, the idea of this study was to prove that waiting for results causes anxiety and this is bad for women; and, by extension, we should rearrange the "system" so that women don't have to wait for their results.

Reading through this paper, I was captivated by the study's disclaimers (like which researcher is on the board of what conflicting company, etc) when I was thunderstruck by a simple statement: This study was funded by the Department of Defense.

The who?


Turns out that a disease-specific lobby group, the National Breast Cancer Coalition Program somehow "convinced" the Department of Defense that it had to use its budget to support breast cancer research, for which the DOD has spent $1.9 billion since the early 1990's.

What? Well at least they are spending that money on groundbreaking research, like the Harvard study!

Arm twisting by clever disease-specific lobbies -- especially those representing perceived minority groups -- can blackmail legislators into supporting programs like this in end-around spending programs funnelled through non-traditional (and nonsensical) federal funding avenues.

The institution affected (like the DOD) then ends up funding the program--usually forever-- no matter how silly the research. And they spend tons of money. Money wasted on peripheral research that could be used for MEDICINE AND SURGERY...or, GUNS and BUTTER.

For instance, this "funding program" was originally put in place in the 1993 DOD budget and the price tag was $210 million. But like all government giveaways, once they are put in place they are pretty hard to get rid of -- and this profligacy continues to this very day.

Disease-specific lobbyists and their effects need to be addressed in any "health-care" reform initiative, and their unseen costs to the system should be assessed.

According to Wikipedia:

Through the DOD , NBCC worked vigorously to ensure consumer activist
participation at the peer-review research table

Well, that's just what the system needs--consumer activists (are those like community organizers?) at the peer-review research table (otherwise known as the trough).


As reported recently in The Atlantic, the US risks losing its supreme air power dominance during Obama's tenure as generals face the reality of being unable to replace our aging force of F-15's with the miraculous F-22's -- given the strictures of the Obama's DOD budget.

Hi-tech fighter aircraft, new warships and missile defense projects are all potential targets for big cuts in the US defense budget, as the American military faces a new era of limits under President Barack Obama.

So why are we spending $2 billion of the DOD's budget trying to figure out how anxious women are as they wait up to one week for breast biopsy results (95% of which are NEGATIVE)?

According to its website, the mission of the Department of Defense is: provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country. The department's headquarters is at the Pentagon.

I guess there is a war on cancer...

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