Prevention, indeed, is better than cure

My two-cents Rx

Benj S. Bangahan, M.D., FPCP, FPCCP

The age-old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, has been the favorite dictum of old folks when they would like to impress  upon their young ones the wisdom of being cautious ahead  of the game the kids intend to play which has some potential dangers to themselves, to the extent that modern internet-savvy youngsters have considered the saying as nothing more than  a good-for-nothing cliché. Never have they known, however, the weight of the clichéd old advice, most especially in the context of health care of people, no matter what age, until they have been made conscious of it.

 In the field of medical care and clinical and surgical caution, steps aimed at avoiding the growth of any disease and preventing the spread of a small one have always been given more importance than the actual therapy itself,  for such a precautionary medical attitude has always meant safety and convenience to the patients primarily, and secondarily, also to the doctors. Such medical outlook has led to the categorization  of preventive medicine as primary, secondary and tertiary.

 Primary methods of prevention have aimed to target the known risk factors of diseases through eliminating them totally, or at least minimizing their potentials to lead to the enhancement of the serious forms of what initially is considered minimally dangerous. Patients should therefore not feel offended when their types of relaxation,  sources of  comfort  and  means of social recognition have been suddenly clumped by their doctor under the no-no habits that they should promptly abandon.  Smoking is proscribed – they should stop it, and those who are not yet in the habit should not entertain the idea of going into it. Smoking is a killer; it has been tagged as responsible for about 20% of  total deaths in a year by an American medical journal. So is eating delicious food items; this habit can lead to obesity and chemical imbalance of blood contents, and, of course, has been responsible for about 15% of deaths, also according to that American journal. Alcoholic drinks have more dangers than benefits and are considered as responsible for about  five percent of yearly deaths. The practice of immunization has been included as a primary method of prevention, hence there are established tried and tested immunizations against some diseases, and many have been helped by their benefits.

Secondary preventive methods are different laboratory techniques that are recommended by the attending physicians for their patients  to undergo, which are able to detect diseases at an early stage, and therefore still not able to show signs or symptoms, hence still clinically unrecognizable. If the tests show positive results, the physicians are given the advanced option to prescribe the appropriate medical or surgical management, thereby rendering a much advanced treatment, preventing the worsening of a simple stage, or sometimes, adequately eliminating the disease process and obviating its recurrence. These include the routinary examinations like complete blood counts (CBC), which detects an early stage of infection; urine analysis, stool analysis and xray procedures. Other examinations that fall under this category are Papanicolauo smear (Pap’s smear) of the cervix or the tip of the uterus, an examination that can recognize presence of cancerous process in the area; and tuberculin skin testing which can diagnose the presence of a tuberculous process that may not be detectable by chest xray. Positive results of these methods can make physicians start their therapy at such an early stage.

Tertiary preventive measures address the presence of newly diagnosed disease processes, and the purpose is to make the attending physicians decide as to the most beneficial medical or surgical management, with the patients as the one given the benefit of the doubt or the top priority in regard to saving lives.

 From the description above, it is quite obvious that the most beneficial of the different preventive measures is the primary category; it now underscores the wisdom of the considered cliché.


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