To screen or not to screen?
That is the question – and it’s a controversial one. Many medics feel screening can too often be a slippery slope to potentially damaging and invasive treatments for something that might never actually develop.
That has proved to be the case for prostate cancer screening in men, according to researchers in Canada. They have recommended scrapping PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing, even for those considered high risk.
Their study tracked 1,500 men aged 50-69 years over two decades. It found between 11 and 19 percent of those diagnosed with prostate cancer didn’t actually have it, while another 40 to 56 percent ended up being “over diagnosed”. That means they were told they had the disease, yet were not destined to experience any of its symptoms nor suffer an early death from it.
Nevertheless, they could still end up having surgery they didn’t need as well as complications from it.
But what if we took a breather from looking for potential problems and actually looked for alternative solutions?
That is, what would happen if we tracked down people who have experienced “the disappearance, complete or incomplete, of a disease or cancer without medical treatment or [with] treatment that is considered inadequate to produce the resulting disappearance of disease symptoms or tumor.” This is how “spontaneous remission” is defined in an Annotated Bibliography of such cases compiled by the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
This book was comprehensively studied by cancer researcher Kelly Turner as a Masters student. She recalls being shocked to discover how many “spontaneous remissions” – including over a thousand documented cases of recovery from cancer – had been noted in medical records without any effort being made to determine how these recoveries had occurred.
Her findings compelled her to take up the issue as a PhD study, in which she concluded that most of these remissions were not “spontaneous” at all. That is, they were not “without a cause” but actually involved radical life changes people worked hard to bring about – most of which addressed emotional and spiritual factors. She interviewed many such “survivors” with an open mind.
“I just wanted to hear whatever they had to say, so to hear so much come up regarding psycho-emotional-spiritual stuff was very surprising to me,” Dr Turner recently told a colleague of mine.
One of the nine “treatments” she took away from those conversations was “experiencing a deeper spirituality” – an approach one Californian chose when he found himself with the symptoms of prostate cancer. At the time Bruce Higley, from Sacramento, felt like he was holding down two jobs (one was a volunteer position) and he was also dealing with unresolved issues of resentment and disappointment. But after several months of praying, with the help of a Christian Science practitioner, he finally found himself free of fear.
“I understood a little better the eternal fact that God’s unlimited love and goodness are an infallible support, which is constantly with each of us,” Higley recalled. As this process unfolded, spiritual ideas gradually “crystallized” for him until the fear of the pain left and every cancer symptom vanished.
“There was no more disappointment, no more resentment, no more fear or pain–just peace, joy, love, and intense gratitude to God for His ubiquitous, unchanging truth,” he wrote.
To screen or not to screen is, of course, a deeply personal choice that has to be made wisely by each individual, on a case by case basis.
Yet beyond addressing that “should I” or “shouldn’t I” question there’s also the wisdom that remains open to a “third option, whatever that might be” – as someone once described to me her own defence against seeing only polarised possibilities.
One of those “whatevers” is to remember we can always screen our thinking. That doesn’t mean scouring our consciousness for mental flaws and blaming ourselves for our ills. It means quieting our fears and listening within for “the still, small voice” of the Divine – as the Bible poetically puts it – assuring us of how inherently good we are as His “image and likeness”.
By digging deeper in this way many, including me, have found we aren’t as beholden as we seem either to our stubborn character traits or to our ailments. Instead, we are empowered to challenge physical and mental diagnoses as mistaken views of our true identity as the sons and daughters of God.
That spiritual status – child of God – is an unwavering divine view of who we each truly are. And sometimes just a glimpse of that deeper idea of ourselves can lead towards our health being gratefully restored.
This article was first posted on The News Hub as: CANCER: Are We Too Busy Tracking Problems To Spot Solutions?