Screening and early diagnosis are actually failures of prevention

Screening and early diagnosis are actually failures of prevention

Personal View: Dr John Millward


Prevention has always been part of the medical vocabulary.  Perhaps one of the earliest suggestions for both prevention and treatment was made by Hippocrates.  He simply advised Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food. Today that message has been refined to state that ’you are what you eat’ and more recently to, ’you are only what you can absorb from your food’.  To most people the name Hippocrates is associated with the oath that doctors were assumed to make by promising to not knowingly harm their patients.

Interest in prevention faded during the 1960s with the marketing of new drugs, which with the exception of thalidomide offered the prospect of curing all diseases. Prevention then seemed obsolete and pointless.  Of more concern then to medical professionals was the prospect of redundancy because of reduced workload.  In those days many of today’s major diseases were rarely seen in many GP practices.  The reality is very different today and everyone is aware of an NHS in crisis, despite record investment.  Professionals are so involved that they seem unable to stand back and make objective decisions about the way forward.

For many years I have encouraged NHS management to spend more time and money on prevention and to be told that ’when money was available this would happen’.  I wondered why this was so expensive, and now I realise why.  From prime ministers, to senior NHS managers and senior clinicians, all are lauding the huge investment in screening and early treatment and calling it prevention which by any dictionary definition is incorrect.  (This comment is obviously directed at the treatment of cancer and ignores all other chronic diseases which are taking an increasing toll on the health of the country.) 

It is a sad reflection on the medical care both here and elsewhere that I have to begin an article on prevention by having to define the meaning of prevention.  It is to prevent disease developing in the first place.  If you ask a lay audience what the word means they will give this explanation.  The mere fact that cancer is detected by screening means a FAILURE of PREVENTION and is not anything to be proud of.  For the patient it means earlier treatment, earlier cost to the NHS and suffering because society failed to prevent a disease which had taken years to develop.

This article is directed to the disease called cancer but is relevant to all chronic diseases.  To prevent the development of cancer it is imperative to know the causes of cancer.  Ironically knowing the causes of cancer is also a great advantage in the treatment of the illness.  It is likely that all chronic diseases have identical causes and it is a great pity that all interested groups plough their own furrows.  Perhaps this is a reflection on the move to increased specialisation in medical practice.  Moreover only a few interested groups are interested in prevention but the majority pursue a policy of researching newer forms of treatment for their own specific disease.

It is vital to know the causes of disease but little effort is made to identify them...  Because of this failure it is obvious that much of medical research is fatally flawed.   Men are now advised to look at the length of fingers to determine the likelihood of getting prostate cancer. 

So we are left to our own devices to explore the causes of disease.  I went back to Hippocrates and the importance of food.  Governments have moved as far as urging people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.  The inference is that if you develop cancer or any other chronic disease it is your fault.  I was encouraged to go back to the 1960’s and to look at nutrition and read the list of diseases that result from a shortage of minerals.  Of particular interest to me was that selenium deficiency which can be found in cancer and a whole list of other serious medical conditions.  To date I have only found one cancer patient who appears to have normal selenium levels.  In repeated demonstrations to NHS managers nobody has denied the proof placed before them.  Despite this, there is refusal to sanction the introduction of blood tests for the estimation of selenium and other important minerals.  This means that for cancer patients the NHS is not allowed to estimate selenium blood levels and has not developed adequate means of supplementation.  The consequence of this neglect means that a patient deficient prior to treatment will be more so on completion, and at greater risk of developing further illness.

My experience is that all chronic disease is due to mineral deficiency.  Furthermore these deficiencies are not due to self neglect but as a direct result of an impairment of the digestive process.  These causes of impairment include environmental damage, bacterial infection, viral infection, parasitic infestation, fungal overgrowth, vaccine damage and heredity. I would suggest that it would be prudent to adopt a different approach to the description of an illness. At present symptoms and investigations lead to a diagnosis of, say, cancer and a treatment process is set in train.  This is despite the possibility that there might be more than one cause for the disease process.  A more accurate approach would be to look at the possible cause and take relevant action. For example, that selenium deficiency was responsible for this particular condition and a chronic viral infection was responsible for that.  Not only would such diagnostic analysis offer an explanation of failure to prevent but also provide a sensible way to treat in conjunction with current medical practice.

Environmental hazard is hard to define.  Studies of Egyptian mummies have suggested that cancer was a rare event.  Observations of natives in the Amazon Rainforest show the rarity of cancer and other chronic illnesses.  This accords with my own early experience in general practice and that in those early days new consultants coming from teaching hospitals would admit that their experience with cancer was limited.  This has led to the view that the surge in cancer is due to modern lifestyle.  There may be some merit in this view. However, many harmful ingredients in personal and household products have long been known to exist but are still available for sale. Many individuals are seeking out less harmful products rather than waiting in vain hope that governments would sometime ban them. CANCERactive has a wonderful web site and a variety of books full of advice on what toxins and foods to avoid and also on what foods to consider in the treatment of cancer.  But the danger of environmental toxins does not just extend to certain chemicals, be they in your make-up bag or in the pesticide on your food. Electricity and the products that depend upon it have been enthusiastically embraced with little control, and sometimes very little research.  It is hard to dissuade people that the likes of microwave ovens, computers, mobile phones WI FI and many other must haves could be dangerous.

The various infections should be easily identified.  However we have a poor record in identifying parasitic infection.  An American view is that perhaps 20 per cent of patients have this infection.  In our experience this is a very common condition that readily responds to anti-parasitic treatment.  Virus disease is frequently diagnosed but assumed to be untreatable because of lack of treatments. However for at least ten years we have used specific anti-viral remedies made in Germany, France and America which are cheap, safe and very efficient.

I realise that the concept of vaccine damage is contentious.  However, in suspected cases that are found to be mineral-deficient, treating the vaccine damage with homoeopathy restores normality.  I could suggest from my observations that many diseases, including cancer, could be the result of vaccine damage...

The more difficult concept to grasp is that of heredity.  This is not the world of genes and gene therapy.  For at least two hundred years it has been postulated that a patient with a chronic infection could develop a change in their own body which is capable of being passed to their offspring. This, in turn, leads to the new born with the inability to absorb all their nutrients and thus makes them more prone to disease...  Family history is important and any chronic conditions amongst relatives should raise suspicions that this could be the underlying cause of disease. Our research supports this theory.  It is important to remember that selenium deficiency can be responsible for many different diseases and that it is the malfunction of the absorption process that is inherited and not the disease.  Thus a grandmother with dementia may have a daughter with MS and a granddaughter with juvenile arthritis.  If left unrecognised and untreated this could lead to a rapidly increasing volume of illness in future generations.

I realise that some of my views are contentious but no attempt has been made to prove or disprove them.  I have obtained most of my knowledge from Germany, a health service we claim to envy.  The diagnostic machine we use is German, decried in this country but a common feature in German doctor and dental surgeries.  I am told that some UK pilots are now sent to Germany for their routine flying medicals and this machine is used in that medical.

I am confident that my views developed over the last ten years in particular would stand up to scrutiny by orthodox medicine. 

The new Government is to put patients first and to allow them to choose their own treatment. But where are the genuine prevention programmes? Where are the real diagnostic aids; the ones that can identify causes; the ones that ensure that you are treated as an individual? When it comes to treating breast cancer, oncologists have finally started to realise one size does not fit all. When will this Eureka moment extend to all illnesses?

If we could diagnose better then we could prevent better. And we could have more effective treatments. But the truth is that if you believe in prevention and effective treatment then only patient pressure will move Government and NHS managers to act. Ask why could people not have routine mineral estimation as a first step in a truly National Health Prevention Programme? Instead we receive advice like that of ’taking a daily aspirin’. Remember this drug was unavailable to the ancient Egyptians and, luckily, remains unavailable currently to the natives of the Amazon Rainforest.

Doctor John Millward trained at Oxford University and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital London and settled as a GP in Bournemouth. He has been a Dorset County Councillor and Mayor of Bournemouth. He was also Chairman of Policy and Resources in Bournemouth and non-executive director of the local NHS Trust.

He is clear in his view that recent Governments have appointed managers who lack relevant expertise and thus cannot effectively ’scrutinise’ the health service in the local community. He finds a complete lack of interest and involvement in prevention and argues that without real prevention, the NHS will simply run out of money. In an effort to overcome these problems he wrote a book "The Treason Within".

Doctor Millward has looked extensively at alternative treatments particularly the German method of investigation and treatment. So impressed by what he saw, he ceased NHS medicine to practise holistic alternative medicine.

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