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Life Extension Magazine April 2013
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Fran Drescher: Defeating Cancer with Hard Work and Humor

By Jon Finkel
Fran Drescher

The first thing you recognize about Fran Drescher, obviously, is her voice. It’s as distinct as your own mother’s.

It’s the voice that carried her to two Emmy Award nominations for her work on the hit sitcom, The Nanny. It’s the voice that has been featured on The Simpsons and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but lately, Drescher is putting her extraordinary vocals to use as an activist for her anti-cancer group, Cancer Schmancer, whose mission is to end cancer mortality due to late stage diagnosis by preventing it from occurring and catching it early.

For Drescher, the genesis of this project comes from her personal experience as a uterine cancer survivor who was misdiagnosed and mistreated by doctors for several years.

“It took me two years of seeing doctors to get a diagnosis after being misdiagnosed for a peri-menopausal condition I didn’t have,” she says. “It motivated me to write the book Cancer Schmancer, which became a New York Times bestseller because I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to other people. When I went on my book tour, I realized that what happened to me actually happens to millions of people! Missed diagnosis, late diagnosis, it’s far too common. Thank God I was only stage one when I was finally diagnosed.”

When Drescher looks back on her early years as a patient she recognizes that she didn’t know what questions to even ask of her doctors. Being the comedian that she is, she naturally puts a comedic spin on the entire experience.

“It took me two years and eight doctors before finally being told I had gynecologic cancer,” she says. “I got in the stirrups more times than Roy Rogers!”

Formulating a Vision

While Drescher was on her lecture tour for the book, the personal stories of frustration that people were telling her about their own cancer experience caused a light bulb to go off in her head.

“I just had a vision that everyone should be diagnosed at stage one,” Drescher says. “I think that’s where our healthcare needs to go. I started creating the Cancer Schmancer movement as an early detection organization. The cornerstone of the movement now involves prevention as well because I think that the nation is too focused on the cure without thinking about what the causes are and eliminating them.”

To that end, the Cancer Schmancer movement promotes the Trash Cancer prevention program, which is dedicated to shifting the trajectory of disease. The program challenges consumers to question what they put in, on and around them while they’re at home.

“The home is the most constant place we spend the most time,” she says. “It’s the one place we have the most control over.”

When Drescher mentions the word ‘control,’ she’s talking about controlling or eliminating our exposure to carcinogens through environmental toxins that we sometimes willingly assault our bodies with on a daily basis. To back this up, she says that before a woman walks out the door in the morning, on average, she has used at least 12 personal care items. Men, on average, use eight.

While many of the items on the ingredient list that may have toxic properties are said to only be detected in trace elements, there’s really no data on the effect of assaulting your body every day with your particular combination of chemicals. Whether your toiletries contain small amounts of formaldehyde or lead, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Practical Ways to Eliminate Toxic Exposure

Fran Drescher

As an example, Drescher talks about the use of aluminum in most anti-perspirant deodorants.

“Many people that end up with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological problems are often found to have high levels of aluminum in their bodies,” she explains. “When people use aluminum-based deodorant, they are sealing up one of the most effective ways the body has to detox itself through perspiration. So not only are you sealing toxins in your body, you’re doing it with a toxin: aluminum.”

Life Extension® mentioned the cancer-causing dangers of cooking at high heat in a recent issue, but compounding the problem of cooking at high temperatures is the problem of scorching food in aluminum containers. When you use aluminum baking pans or aluminum foil on the barbecue, it makes it easy for dangerous chemicals that we can’t see or smell to seep into our food.

“People really need to educate themselves and question everything about how they prepare their food,” Drescher says. “Even our most trusted brands that we grew up with, that our mothers and grandmothers used, may be bringing harmful substances into your house.”

In addition to health and beauty products, Drescher says that dangerous chemicals are lurking in cleaning products, laundry products, dishwashing detergent, kitchen cleansers, and even baby products.

Beyond the Household

Ten years ago, Cancer Schmancer was just a book; now it’s a full-fledged movement with Fortune 500 company affiliations and an advisory board that includes doctors from such prestigious institutions as the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Woman’s Cancer Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Outpatient Cancer Clinic, and even the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Yet the movement is just getting started.

“It’s a work in progress,” Drescher says. “There were times when it was hard, when there was just me and two other women. It was so much work I thought it was going to kill me. I thought I’d get cancer from trying to help people not get cancer! We fortunately now have a staff where we can get by, but we’re a lean, mean organization.”

Lean, mean, and effective. Drescher and her organization are responsible for the unanimous passage of Johanna’s Law by all 100 senators. Officially known as the Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act, the bill is named for Johanna Silver Gordon, who died from ovarian cancer in 2000. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on January 12, 2007, which allocated millions of dollars to the US Department of Health and Human Services to launch a national campaign in 2008 to educate American women and health professionals about the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers.

“We’re very proud that we successfully passed that act,” Drescher says. “All 100 senators said yes! We are now very excited about our next policy initiative, which is to come up with a full, deceit-free label for products. It’s a bipartisan bill that will offer manufacturers a government seal of approval that they are selling a carcinogen-free product.”

The way this program would work is that companies would agree to submit their product to a third party lab at their own expense to determine if the ingredients in their product are harmful or not.

“The goal is to force companies to put out a label that the average consumer can understand,” she says. “Customers shouldn’t have to have a degree from MIT to figure out what’s in the product they’re buying.”

Cancer Schmancer’s Gynecologic Cancer Cheat Sheet

In the United States, more than 83,000 patients are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer annually.* The three most common gynecologic cancers are uterine, ovarian, and cervical cancer. Each cancer may have a variety of symptoms and associated risk factors that may include:

Risk Factors:

  • I am not getting screened regularly with a Pap test
  • I am at high-risk for human papillomaviruses (HPV)
  • I smoke 
  • I am very overweight
  • I eat a diet high in fat
  • I am a woman older than age 60
  • I started menstruating at an early age—before age 12
  • I take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs

Warning Symptoms:

  • Indigestion, heartburn, nausea, or gas
  • Abdominal swelling or discomfort
  • Pelvic pain or cramping
  • Bloating or a sense of fullness, even after small meals
  • Backache
  • Painful, frequent, or burning urination with no infection
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Vaginal bleeding or irregular periods
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge after menopause
  • Pain during intercourse

These symptoms can often be similar to other diseases and conditions. However, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor right away. You should discuss which of the following screening and diagnostic tools may be appropriate for you: PAP Test, CA 125 Blood Test, Trans-vaginal Ultrasound, Biopsy.

*   Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/. Accessed December 20, 2012.

Changing the Healthcare Landscape

Cancer Schmancer Movement

Cancer Schmancer also recently partnered with Humana Inc., one of the nation’s leading health and well-being companies, to promote its Trash Cancer initiative.

“I applaud Humana with what they’re doing with their own vitality program,” Drescher says. “They’re trying to shift from a health insurance company to being a company that helps prevent disease and encourages people not to get sick in the first place. They do this by creating incentive programs for people to stay healthy. It’s a philosophy that I hope other companies will follow. Hopefully, the dinosaurs who resist this change, the elected officials and doctors still subscribing to 20th century ideas about healthcare will fall by the wayside.”

In this regard, Cancer Schmancer and Life Extension share the common philosophy that the best way to battle disease and increase longevity is to avoid getting a disease in the first place.

“Nobody goes through life unscathed,” Drescher says. “For me, turning pain into purpose is very healing. I really feel like I got famous, I got cancer, and now this is my life’s mission.”

To complete her mission, Drescher says that she takes care of herself now more than ever. She eats more organic, more vegan, and is more natural in her lifestyle.

“You really need to think of your health first and factor in as many stress-reducing, health-boosting strategies as you can,” she says. “When you have a compromised immune system your body can’t battle the way it needs to. The more you deplete your body, the more you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

For Drescher, failure, either with her own health, or concerning her mission with the Cancer Schmancer movement, is not an option.

“I’m just an average person who didn’t even finish college, but I’m a US citizen and I’m very patriotic and I care about the health of the people in our country,” she explains, the passion coming through in her voice. “The United States is still the beacon of light on this planet. What we’re doing to raise awareness with cancer prevention, through our website, through our organization, and through articles like this with Life Extension is hopefully shifting the course of the health of the American people and having a domino effect on the rest of the world when it comes to battling cancer.

For more information on Fran Drescher or the Cancer Schmancer organization, visit: www.cancerschmancer.org

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.