5 Medical Myths And Prejudices That Kill People Every Day
While America boasts some of the most advanced medical treatments this side of the sickbay on the Enterprise, access to those treatments is woefully short of universal. And some of the factors standing between us and adequate medical care serve as reminders of how far we are from a Utopian society in which no one is forced to wonder if that thing on their back is cancer. For example ...
Male Cancer Research Gets Less Money Because It's Not Fashionable
If our social media feeds are to be believed, the boob is an endangered species. Women post the colors of their bras and flop their boobs onto random objects, while ads try to sell us "I heart boobies" bracelets and pink T-shirts, all to raise awareness of breast cancer. Hell, every October, which is breast cancer awareness month, the world looks like aisle three at the drugstore after a drunk tripped into the Pepto-Bismol display.
But do you remember the #CockInASock stunt, born to raise awareness for testicular cancer? Or how about the male version of that wacky pink merchandise, proudly proclaiming the wearer's overwhelming affinity for his nuts? Of course you don't. You almost certainly never heard about them in the first place. And that's because breasts are fun and pleasing to look at, while a hairy, flaccid cock and balls looks like someone stuffed a sausage into a tube sock and draped it over a couple of bird eggs.
"So beautiful, so majestic," said absolutely no one.
And that's a problem, because female cancers get far more attention than male cancers, to the point where breast cancer awareness has become a marketing juggernaut. In the UK, for example, 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and 10,000 die from it. Those are similar numbers to breast cancer, but breast cancer gets more than double the research dollars. It's not much different in America, with the National Cancer Institute's funding per new case of prostate cancer (NCIf/ncpc, as it's commonly known) being right around half that of breast cancer. It's even worse in Australia, where men's health research gets a measly quarter of the funding of women's.
Despite their obsession with examining balls, the NFL won't even spare a 30-second PSA for testicular cancer.
So why the huge disparity, despite the fact that men are 16 percent more likely to get cancer than women, and 40 percent more likely to die from it? Well, it's a lot easier to get behind a campaign involving a depressing disease if attractive young women are involved. Then there's the fact that men are conditioned to "tough it out." Men often fail to go to the doctor after spotting early symptoms, because what are they, some kind of pussy? So no one wants to talk about it, which is why we don't see a lot of blue ribbons or fun runs to raise money for prostate cancer research, even though it sports as many victims as the almighty Pink.
Perhaps what prostate and testicular cancer needs is a cute little mascot or slogan, like a cartoon penis saying "Don't suck it up -- see your doctor!" Or something like that. We're just spitballing here.
"Bury your nuts, don't let them bury you! Contact a urologist today!"
Attributing A Baby's Death To SIDS Keeps Parents From Learning About Their Mistakes
SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant in its sleep. Good news: The rate of SIDS has been steadily decreasing for quite some time. Bad news: SIDS hasn't been cured, because SIDS isn't a disease. It's merely a catch-all term for scenarios that are too sad to talk about, to the point where valuable information isn't being communicated to parents.
See, many of the "unavoidable" deaths once attributed to SIDS actually had known causes. These include placing a baby facedown in a crib or giving them poofy pillows, both of which can lead to suffocation, or parents saying no to cribs and sleeping with a tiny, squishable infant right next to them. A Detroit pediatric mortality investigator looked at over 500 infant deaths, and found that nearly all of them could have been prevented if the baby's sleeping environment had been safer. Then they presumably looked for a less sad job.
"Hi, I'm calling about the puppy gravedigger opening."
When the worst does happen, doctors tend to sugarcoat the situation by pointing a finger at SIDS and portraying the baby's death as unavoidable, as if the Grim Reaper was behind on his quota and simply couldn't be stopped. But parents want to know how their child died, even if they had a hand in causing the death. That's part of the grieving process -- closure is better than thinking the medical equivalent of a boogeyman stole your baby away in the middle of the night.
Strange how no one wants to drop the guilt trip of a lifetime on heartbroken parents.
And obviously, the knowledge can also go a long way toward ensuring that parents don't lose another freaking child with the exact same mistake. We think feeling additional guilt is worth it if it guarantees that doesn't happen.
A Lack Of Medical Interpreters Can Be Fatal
Imagine you're suffering from constant debilitating chest pains, and you haven't even had your patented Mountain Dew nachos for weeks. So you go to the doctor and describe your symptoms, but he spouts off a response which sounds like he's clearing his throat after he's gulped down a bucket of live tree slugs. You realize with growing dread that your doctor only speaks R'lyehian, which is not a circumstance that's tenable to your continued well-being. It's also a circumstance encountered by countless non-English-speakers across America.
Though without the Cthulhu worshiping doctors ... They're in the collections department.
In order to receive government funding, hospitals are required to provide language services to any patient who needs them, and many states have programs to reimburse hospitals for the significant costs of employing the only person in South Dakota fluent in Mongolian. But some hospitals either can't afford translators or simply don't bother, and the monitoring and reporting of language issues is poor. And so nearly nine percent of Americans are at risk of a language-barrier-induced "adverse event," which is a technical way of saying someone got an appendectomy when all they wanted was directions to the bathroom.
We're only half-joking, because a study across four states discovered non-English-speaking patients who had died, received unnecessary amputations, or suffered permanent organ damage. And all because busy doctors try to save time by eschewing professional medical interpreters in favor of staff members who had a semester of Spanish in college -- or worse, a patient's English-speaking child who can't even pronounce "anal fistula," let alone translate it for their mom.
"Let your mom know it's mild xerostomiath. We'll test for Sjogren's syndrome, but a dose of Salagen should clear it up. Got all that?"
In one example, a doctor who knew French used it to speak to a patient who only spoke Creole, French's hip cousin. But the French word for "stomach" sounds a lot like the Creole word for "chest," and you don't want to get those two regions mixed up when scalpels are involved. That's why professionals are needed -- they know the subtleties of the language, and they can translate complicated medical jargon.
Studies have shown that patients treated by physicians who speak their language are more likely to adhere to doctor's orders because, you know, they actually understand them. Meanwhile, patients with limited knowledge of English are 24 percent more likely to make return visits to the emergency room. We're assuming this is not because they had such a blast there the first time around.
Scheduling Convenient Early Baby Deliveries Can Lead To Developmental Problems
Having a baby is a long and labori-- difficult process, but modern medicine has made giving birth much easier compared to the days when a woman was handed a shot of gin and told to grit her teeth. If a mother-to-be encounters a medical emergency, has some vacation time coming up, is in imminent danger of a Terminator coming from the future to eliminate her unborn ass-kicker, or is plain sick and tired of being pregnant, she has the option to induce labor or schedule a C-section. Induced labors doubled between 1990 and 2006, and cesareans were chosen by nearly a third of women.
"Could we just grab a scalpel and get this done? I want to have the kid in bed in time for Game Of Thrones."
But Mother Nature set the timer at 40 weeks because the bun generally needs that much time in the oven. Babies born even two weeks early are at a much greater risk of ending up in neonatal intensive care, or worse. Our organs develop at different rates, and that last month in the womb is crucial. At 35 weeks, for example, a baby's brain is only two-thirds the size it will be at a full term of 40 weeks. According to pediatrician Ed Donovan of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, "A baby born three weeks early with mature lungs may not be ready to eat because the brain's not fully developed." And according to us at basic rules of reality, eating is a key requirement for survival.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists argues against deliveries prior to 39 weeks for anything other than medical reasons, but that hasn't prevented between 10 and 15 percent of American babies from being born early due to doctors' schedules, the all-around pain in the ass of carrying around the equivalent of a watermelon in your gut, or a birth date that falls a bit too close to Christmas and would doom a child to a lifetime of shitty combined presents. Those early births usually still work out fine, but you can't give a kid good Christmas presents if their lungs collapse or you end up paying the average of 76 grand to spend time in intensive care.
Some Parents Can't Afford Expensive Vaccines
While we all like to harp on anti-vaxxers for exposing a new generation to the firsthand joys of whooping cough because learning about it in history class wouldn't have been hands-on enough, there's a much more disturbing "movement" out there. We'll call them Can't-Afford-Vaxxers, because they should have something about them that isn't catchy.
While still being slightly more catchy than "Measles Sufferers."
Recent estimates show that roughly 2.1 million American children aren't getting the vaccinations they need -- not because their parents think vaccines are going to turn little Jimmy into a lizard person, but simply because their parents can't afford them. There's a similar situation in Australia, where a study found that the vast majority of the 9.3 percent of children who aren't properly immunized have parents who are in no way opposed to it. These are the working poor -- people who make too much money to qualify for free government vaccinations, but whose health insurance is so terrible that anything short of gory dismemberment falls under their deductible. And when your choice comes down to inoculating your kids against that old-timey disease FDR had or feeding them this week, there isn't really much of a choice at all.
"Come back after little Suzy has been crippled by Polio, then we'll talk."
Government programs are getting slashed while insurance companies are cutting their coverage, and that means preventable diseases are starting a comeback tour only slight less desirable than Creed teaming up with the Dave Matthews Band. That whooping cough example wasn't hypothetical. 2012 saw 48,277 cases and 20 deaths, and another 13 deaths in 2013 and 2014 -- numbers that haven't been seen since 1959. While some of that can be chalked up to the vaccine growing less effective, not getting any vaccine is also an issue.
We'll see if people get as worked up about this as they do when taking on the anti-vaxxer crowd. It's fun to call Jenny McCarthy a moron, but we're thinking the declining health of the working poor might be one of those problems that can't be solved by mockery alone.
What's The Best Fictional School To Attend? In the muggle world, we're not given the opportunity for a magical hat to tell us which school we should go to. Usually we just have to go to the high school closest to where we live or whatever college accepts our SAT scores and personal essay. This month, our goal is to determine what would be the best fictional school to go to. Join Jack, Daniel, and the rest of the Cracked staff, along with comedians Brandie Posey and Steven Wilber, as they figure out if it's a realistic school like Degrassi or West Beverly High, or an institution from a fantasy world like Hogwarts with its ghosts and dementors, or Bayside High, haunted by a monster known only to humans as Screech. Get your tickets here!
For more ways health care is screwed up in this country, check out 5 Healthcare Rip-Offs The Industry Hopes You'll Never Notice and 5 Ways US Medical Billing Is Way More F#@ked Than You Think.
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