Natural Cancer Therapies vs Conventional Treatments


There is a much quoted study on the natural cancer therapies websites. The quote says that 75% of cancer doctors would not take chemotherapy for cancer due to the toxicity of the drugs. The quote is very much out of context but is indicative of some of the issues. However the paper says very much more. It was a paper that asked doctors who care for patients with cancer if they would take part in different types of treatment trials if they themselves had cancer. This was a study from over 20 years ago but I would have to ask if things have changed at all in the time since it was done.

Four different scenarios (different presentations of lung cancer) were given to the doctors. They were asked if they had that type of cancer would they take part in a study comparing different treatments. All the trials they evaluated were chosen to show the different types of study that were taking place at the time that the study was done. They were asked what treatment they thought was best for each condition, then if they would participate in a particular trial and if not, why not.

It was interesting that the chemo trials were not well liked, with only 11-31% potentially agreeing to participate. Of those who didn’t between 60% and 75% stated they wouldn’t because chemotherapy was too toxic and between 58% and 76% stated that chemotherapy was an ineffective treatment. Remember these were treatments that these doctors or their colleagues were asking patients to undertake at that time.

Subsequent research findings have improved little. Morgan’s paper of 2004 showed that chemotherapy only contributed about 1.5% to the five-year survival rate for lung cancer and just over 2% to the overall five-year survival rates of all cancers. Given that chemotherapy works well in a couple of cancers (testis, Hodgkins disease) slightly in a few cancers, the very low average of 2% reflects the fact that chemotherapy doesn’t work in others (prostate, uterus, bladder, kidney, soft tissue sarcoma, melanoma).

So why are people being offered chemotherapy when there is so little effect?

I put this down to a belief as strong as religious belief is to a bigot. I say this because of conversations with a whole range of people from those in the street, to friends, to doctors I work with and to people I know with cancer. There is a belief that a severe disease like cancer needs a strong drug to deal with it. Without it they will die. Time and again on television we see people who have survived cancer put down their survival to the magical drugs they received under the wonderful care of the doctors and nurses at their chosen hospital.

“It’s chemo or death,” said a friend. She was going for chemo and suffered horrendously for over six months before turning down more treatment.

Sadly doctors also have this belief, at least in front of their patients. However the scientific paper that showed that chemotherapy trials would be turned down on the basis of toxicity and that they did not work suggested that their private views might be different.

So why is chemotherapy offered so frequently when it has little effect?

One response is that chemotherapy is not given to improve longevity in most cases but to improve the quality of life for the time they have left. If this was true it would be worth it. However I know of NO patient whose quality of life was improved as a result of chemotherapy. Every person has talked only of the horrors and the problems they have been left with.

So why is this happening?

I put it down to the matter that doctors do what they believe their colleagues require of them according to the fads, fashions, financial and social incentives of each decade. Doctors have been struck off their local medical councils for refusing to give the chemotherapy that the power brokers all agree is the necessary required treatment. Change is slow and is mostly driven from outside. We need to ask doctors, ethics committees and politicians the difficult questions. If the Morgan and Mackillop papers are accurate, then why are they prescribing chemotherapy when it has such little effect?

Frankly I would turn to natural cancer therapies given what I have read in my research explorations. They might not be proven by randomized controlled trials to the satisfaction of the oncologists, but they don’t do the damage of the current fad, fashion and incentives. And if the large number of recoveries are not due to the medical treatment it must be because the body’s immune system kicked in and improved its functioning, so it makes sense to work with nature and do anything that we can to improve the immune system.

Mackillop WJ, Ward GK, O’Sullivan B.. The use of expert surrogates to evaluate clinical trials in non-small cell lung cancer. British Journal of Cancer 1986; 54:661-667. Morgan G, Ward R, Barton M. The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Clinical Oncology 2004;16:549-560.




Source by Harriet Denz Penhey

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