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What’s the Best Thing I Can Say This Week? Vote!

By Heather Millar

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I had lots of ideas for this week’s post:

• It’s Halloween today. What’s more scary than cancer? (Cue spooky music here.)

• The Journal of Clinical Oncology has a whole issue devoted to progress in cancer survivorship care: preserving fertility, second malignancies caused by treatments like chemo, cardiac complications from treatment, sexuality problems, the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and on and on.  It’s great that so much more attention is being paid to survivors.

• There’s apparently evidence that dinosaurs had cancer, too. Hmm, maybe that sinks the much-repeated idea that ancient peoples (Egyptians et. al) rarely developed cancer.

• A new study finds that African American women have an increased risk of breast cancer death, especially in the three years post-diagnosis. That sort of thing is always good to talk about the disturbing, and persistent, inequalities in healthcare.

• There’s a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association that analyzed 230,000 clinical trials. It found that studies that claimed a “very large effect,” usually didn’t hold up in further research. You have to be a JAMA subscriber to read the original paper, but the LA Times has a good summary here. Add that to my recurring cry, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

But each time I started to write a post about one of these things, I kept coming back to this thought: The American Presidential election is less than one week away. We are all sick to death of the horse race press coverage, attack ads, and debates. We may think that the country is so evenly divided, so bitterly divided, that our vote won’t count if we don’t live in a “battleground” voting precinct. We may think that the two presidential candidates don’t differ much on foreign policy, or whatever. We may be overwhelmed with the feeling that both parties are so flawed that none of it really matters. Or, we may despair of ever figuring out the truth as the slings, arrows, and statistics fly. “What’s the point?” we may think.

But my fellow cancer patients, I encourage you to resist all of those very understandable feelings of exhaustion and cynicism. In this country, we have a deep divide in our ideas about healthcare. Some think that affordable, equal access to healthcare should be a responsibility supported by us all. Some think healthcare should not be a government responsibility, but rather a personal concern mediated by the market.

I have my own ideas on this, and those should be obvious from my posts over this year. But my personal beliefs don’t matter here. What matters is that, in this election, one of the most profound differences between the candidates is their position on healthcare. President Obama will continue to implement the Affordable Care Act. Governor Romney has pledged to repeal what his party calls “Obamacare.”

Do your research. Earlier this month, The New England Journal of Medicine asked both candidates to lay out their ideas on healthcare. Obama’s essay is here and Romney’s is here . You can also look at Romney’s website and Obama’s website for more details on their plans.

Take a little time to think. Make up your own mind. Then go out and vote. The outcome will profoundly affect cancer patients. So vote!

Photo: iStockphoto

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