5 Frightening, Lifesaving Things to Know About CT Scans, Side Effects, Blood and Cancer

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My wife Briggs was driven so far down by chemotherapy for her advanced rectal cancer. Yet in the book I wrote in her memory, Briggs: Love, Cancer, and the Medical Profession, I cite an extensive study of 22 major malignancies. With the exception of such cancers as Hodgkin's disease, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and testicular cancer, and with early-stage surgery yielding high cure rates, it estimated the actual overall contribution of chemotherapy to five-year survival in adults to be no more than 2.1 percent in America and 2.3 percent in Australia.

Irradiated blood is almost universally used in cancer centers. In Japan, the rate of death from elevated potassium or lethal ECG change has noticeably increased since irradiated blood was introduced nationwide.

A study on CT scans was led by the University of California, San Francisco. It found that radiation delivered in CT scans, excessive to begin with, can vary up to a massive 13 times the prescribed amount depending on the facility. With a four-phase abdominal CT equaling approximately 300 chest X-rays, 13 times the amount was the equivalent of 3,900 chest X-rays in one session. In most cases MRIs could have safely provided the information needed.

Doctors routinely dismiss side effects both before treatment and after. Harvard Medical School professor Jerry Avorn has estimated that side effects are underreported by doctors by between 90 and 99 percent. The FDA relies on such reporting in gauging a drug's safety.

The causes of cancer are out of control. The odds are now 1 in 3 that a woman will be diagnosed with cancer within her lifetime. For a man it's 1 in 2. The American Cancer Society's estimates for 2014 are 1,665,000 new diagnoses and 585,000 deaths, both higher than in 2013. And early detection is undependable when you have even the resources of actor Michael Douglas, not diagnosed until stage IV despite continually bringing up his symptoms to his doctors; or veteran producer Laura Ziskin ("Spider-Man"), with whom Briggs and I had come in contact as screenwriters, not diagnosed with breast cancer till stage III. Also a founder of Stand Up to Cancer, she has since passed away.

(In 1931, the strongest proponent of radiation in the U.S. was on the cover of TIME magazine. By 1949, a doctor who would be one of the foremost proponents of chemotherapy was on the cover. Twenty-five stars and six professors of oncology have signed a petition in Briggs's memory to make cancer immunotherapy accessible for all. I've now begun a related petition to put Briggs and immunotherapy on the cover of TIME to begin this new, safe, curative era in cancer: Put Briggs's Beautiful, Smiling Face on the cover of TIME.)