Okay, before someone writes me a nasty little note, no I am not a Doctor, nor am I going to be advocating any form of treatments here. This is an opinion blog, not an article of scientific merit. If you don’t like opinion pieces, or prefer things laden with hard hitting facts, please stop reading. Seriously. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
What if cancer isn’t the disease, it is just a symptom?A way out notion now, but perhaps not so in the future. Look at it this way – science and medical science in particular, is running at a million miles an hour. Ideas are cropping up in the most unlikely places, getting researched and lo and behold, ta-dah! A new miracle drug or therapy is discovered. It’s simply amazing what can be cured or treated now.
Years ago, stomach ulcers were thought to be the product of stress or what someone ate for example. Because of that, treatments was aimed at neutralising the symptoms. Eat soft soothing foods like jellies, custards and milkshakes. Drink loads of antacids, stomach lining medications and stay clear of stress, chillies or hot curries.
All of this was reversed back in 1985 when an Australian doctor drank Helicobacter pylori and gave himself peptic ulcers in the process. ( Wiki information on solving stomach ulcers ) By doing this, he showed it was in fact, a bacterium that caused these specific ulcers and thus, with a special course of antibiotics, many stomach ulcer sufferers could throw away liquid antacids for good!
Recently, I was reading that Crohn’s Disease, which has always been attributed to a dysfunctional immune system or predisposition in your genes, may have an association with bacteria and fungi in the gut. (Suspects in the cause of Crohn’s Disease.)
When I was diagnosed years ago with Crohn’s, it was all ‘genetic’ this and ‘immune system attacking itself’ that. Now, with more advanced research and study into how and why, they are thinking that perhaps it just might be gut microbiota that is causing the angst.
These are just two examples that have touched my life in some way. What about all the other areas out there? How exciting is all this new research?
I read a book a while back, called ‘10% Human: How your body’s microbes hold the key to health and happiness’, by Alanna Collen. In it, the author shows how scientists are studying the effects of the bugs in the gut and how they can change the weight and social disposition of mice and possibly humans as well. Fat mice became thin, thin ones fat. Outgoing mice became withdrawn and visa versa when the make of their intestinal microbiota was changed. This is so exciting!
When humans have had fecal transplants (yes, that is exactly that it sounds like), some things (like weight and possibly mental states) have been transferred from host to subject, so they are now screening fecal donor very rigorously. If you go online and have a look at the home fecal transplant forums, you can see how many conditions people are claiming have been helped, if not outright cured, by the donation of healthy fecal matter. This donation changes the bacteria present in the sick gut and with help, new bugs flourish.
Now, I may be naive because I have been experiencing illnesses for many years and looking for an instant cure-all is a hobby of mine, but if this world of study show such amazing results, why can’t we go further?
Back to my original hypothesis.
What if cancer is just a symptom?
Peptic stomach ulcers were thought to be the cause of such symptoms as burning pain in the stomach, nausea, inability to eat/digest certain foods. However, it was discovered they were, themselves, a symptom of something else. Crohn’s Disease, instigator of horrific symptoms like malabsorption, internal bleeding and crippling pain, is now under the microscope, leading to some exciting findings indicating it may be a symptom of certain fungi and bacteria in the gut. Even if it is not conclusive, it’s pretty exciting.
Cause (ulcers) = symptoms (pain, reflux etc) just became new cause (bacteria) = ulcers, pain and refleux etc. Old cause is now just another symptom….
As medical research deepens on just how much the microbiota in our system affects our overall health, who knows what will reveal itself.
Is it simplistic to hope that such life changing, devastating and deadly diseases like cancer are revealed as symptoms of something we can fix like bugs in the gut? Yes. I know it is. It is pure fantasy.
But I happen to like fantasy, and it’s worth hoping for.