St Paul D’Aria – talk by Lauren Pecorino

The Paul’s Cancer Support Centre, based near Clapham Junction in South West London offer a range of services for people affected by cancer, for the diagnosed but also for carers, family members and friends. Several of my friends have attended their Healing Journey course and found it enormously helpful to get through the emotional and psychological impacts of being diagnosed with cancer. They offer a great many more services at the Centre but also via webinars.

However tonight I attended the Centre to hear Dr Lauren Pecorino speak about ‘Lifestyle choices that may reduce cancer risk: evidence based recommendations’.

She has written a book ‘Why Millions Survive Cancer: The Successes of Science’ which goes into more detail about the improvements worldwide in survival rates for many cancers and she believes that these improvements mean that “our attitude towards cancer now needs drastic change”.

As someone diagnosed with a rare cancer and indeed meeting so many more people diagnosed with different cancers, the subject of ‘is it my fault I have cancer?’ or ‘is it my lifestyle that gave me cancer?’ or ‘could I have avoided cancer?’ often come into discussions. Mostly at the darkest of hours and at a time when there’s the blame game discussion.

I get truly frustrated when I read articles in many publications (medical and non-medical) that imply that by eating, drinking or doing something you have in some way made a choice to have cancer. Some of the same publications then produce articles saying that the same things will in fact cure cancer! Just for a laugh have a look at this page http://kill-or-cure.heroku.com/

But the same applies for healthy living… if you have a sedentary job or perhaps work night shifts, you are also putting yourself at risk of cancer. Errr hellooo?

So tonight, Tish and I decided to pootle along to this lecture in the hope that we could come away with something conclusive. Was there in fact a food stuff that should be INCLUDED in our diet or one that should be EXCLUDED?

Sadly the lecture really was much of the same. Generalist in approach and undefined in advice.

She touched on the importance of ‘personalised medicine’ (a terrifically fabulous idea in principle but very hard to administer in the current thinking). She also spoke of components of some fruit and vegetables actually turning on genes that help protect you against cancer… but only in a general way and not all cancers nor for everyone!

I guess I felt a little cheated. I wanted some facts. I wanted an ‘expert’ to say X or Y will work with to reduce occurrence or recurrence of cancer B or C. I know it’s never likely that they’ll tell me anything about Phyllodes or indeed for Tish about Ovarian – the joys of rare cancer diagnosis – but I had hoped there’d be something new that I can share with others who are seeking hope and ‘informed choice’.

In conclusion I should add that there are many many pieces of research into healthier eating and lifestyle choices. This research is for all sorts of medical conditions, including cancer. I hope in the future this research is going to allow more personalised medicine and treatment. I would like to see ‘personalised medicine/stratified medicine’ (current buzzwords) to also include lifestyle advice as well as drugs prescribed. I believe there must be a more holistic approach to health generally.

I also know that, for many, the idea of eating 5 a day of fruit and veg or taking up running, just isn’t going to happen… however encouraging and motivating people to be more interested in what they put in their bodies and how they use their bodies must surely be the way forward. I would love the media to use encouragement and motivation instead of the current method of blame – particularly people who only have 4 a day or eat the occasional takeaway or didn’t go for a brisk walk today… it doesn’t mean they WANT to get cancer!

I also know many people who are gym bunnies and have been all their lives. They eat right. They exercise regularly. They don’t drink. They’ve never smoked. And still they are diagnosed with cancer.

It breaks my heart when I hear a cancer patient ask if they have caused their cancer because they liked milkshakes too much or a takeaway every Sunday night. I think they’ve enough to handle being diagnosed without feeling that they are in some part responsible!

I’ve not read Dr Lauren Pecorino’s book “Why Millions Survive Cancer” and I’m sure there are some fabulous tips and tricks for a healthier lifestyle. However I didn’t feel there was enough substance during the lecture to compel me to buy it. Have you read it?

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