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Something in my house is very, very dead

cease and desist

Note: please pretend this item was topped by a photograph of a squirrel skeleton; a priceless and unique work of the photographer’s art.

Not sure what, not sure where. Best guess: squirrel, walls. Never mind. Nothing says “buy this house!” like the pervasive stench of death.

Changing the subject, I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday (fine, thanks. Blood pressure check) and I read a really interesting article in Discover magazine about spontaneous remission of advanced cancers. Bad news: it’s extremely rare and they still can’t figure out why it happens. They think it’s an immune system thing.

In fact, they theorize that many of us host small cancers throughout our lives that we successfully put down. Only when a cancer reaches a certain potency are our immune systems overwhelmed. They liken it to a fire in the wastebasket: reasonably easy to put out unless the drapes catch.

They make the case that extremely early detection of cancers is, therefore, not such a boon after all. Especially for people at both ends of life. Relatively mild and slow-growing specimens of breast, prostate or skin cancer might smolder for many years with little impact; if you’re old, the cancer may be less life-threatening than the treatment.

When science developed a urine test for the common childhood cancer neuroblastoma, Japan began a routine screening program for infants. Ninety percent were screened, and those with the cancer were treated with the usual combination of surgery, radiation and/or chemo. Not only did survival rates for neuroblastoma not improve, but a percentage of infants died of the treatment. So some percentage of neuroblastomas clearly are either not life-threatening or spontaneously remit. The program was halted.

(I dug around to try and find how many cases turned up before and after they instituted the screen. Interestingly, many hits were to old articles praising the policy and claiming an overall reduction of mortality. Later reports, not so much. Sadly, it takes time for data to catch up with practice. Number of cases caught by screening in one prefecture were ten times the prior number).

This reminds me of something Theodore Dalrymple wrote (in An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Medicine, I think): there is no hard evidence that preventive medicine is a good idea. The whole Health Maintenance Organization structure is built on the proposition that catching disease before people feel sick saves money and lives in the long run. Sure, it makes sense. But lots of things that make sense simply aren’t true. Medication problems, mis-diagnosis and aggressive and dangerous treatments make over-doctoring a risky proposition.

Modern Western medicine is a great achievement. The moment I feel sick, you can be sure I’ll run to the man in the white coat and commence throwing Franklins at him.

But there’s a lot to be said for waiting until you feel sick.

I’m a big fan of lowbrow popular science publications like Discover. I don’t know what they’ve told their shareholders, but it looks like Discover is giving away their content for free. Lots of well written, interesting stuff there, and it seems refreshingly apolitical (unlike some of the highbrow publications of late). Mucho recommendo.


Comment from porknbean
Time: August 23, 2007, 2:10 pm

I have a friend who is a paramedic. Says she has smelled human carcass and rodent carcass. The rodent is worse, human comes in second, and a gut wound comes in a close third.

Comment from Gnus
Time: August 23, 2007, 3:29 pm

“A seventh grader in Florida recently won her school science fair by proving there are more bacteria in ice machines at fast-food restaurants than in toilet bowl water.”

That’s quite the Discovery. I can see why they’d be giving away some of their content.

Comment from Pupster
Time: August 23, 2007, 3:35 pm

Note to self: Don’t try to smell rotting corpse of the loser of a knife fight at squirrel hunting camp.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 23, 2007, 3:39 pm

Oh, great! Now I have the soundtrack to West Side Story going through my head.

Sung by the Chipmunks.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: August 23, 2007, 6:25 pm

When you’re a Chip
You’re a Chip all the way
From your first acorn snack
‘Til you start to decay!

When you’re a Chip,
And Steamboat pats your @ss,
You got witnesses,man!
“Hey! Did he make a pass?”

You’re never alone,
You’ll never feel neglected!
Akismet’s your own:
When Lokki’s expected,
You @ss’s protected!

Then you are set
With a capital K,
Which you’ll never forget:
Akismet away!

When you’re a Chip,
You stay a Chip!

Comment from jwpaine
Time: August 23, 2007, 6:26 pm

Akismet a day,
Keeps the Lokki away.

Comment from Lokki
Time: August 23, 2007, 6:30 pm

Akismet – you gotta meet this guy, JW! Seriously!

Comment from bibliomom
Time: August 23, 2007, 10:36 pm

Just goes to show that sometimes what we don’t know can’t kill us.

Comment from Lokki
Time: August 23, 2007, 11:22 pm

As sort of an apology to everyone, here’s a martial arts for women link that I found hanging out in the filter with me last night.

Akismet said it’s OK to post this, honest, this time

Rose & Camellia

Comment from Dawn
Time: August 24, 2007, 12:55 am

That was weird Lokki, but I shall never again underestimate the resolve of the low born woman.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: August 24, 2007, 2:09 am

Guess I’ll never look down on chick-fights again.

I’ll keep watching, though. Come on, I’m a guy.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 24, 2007, 8:10 am

Ow. I just got slapped silly. I don’t think my reflexes are up to it this morning.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: August 24, 2007, 3:23 pm

I beat the first two gals, but then the maid laid me out quick. She’s a tough old bird.

Pingback from S. Weasel
Time: August 30, 2007, 5:13 pm

[…] I have ceased. And also desisted. Well! I have received my first letter of complaint (as difficult as that may be to believe). If you scroll down to the Dead Squirrel thread, therein lies the tale. Here I was sure my first was going to be from the Disney people, after something graphically horrible I did to Mickey some years ago on another site. […]

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Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

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