Posted by: stardustmike | September 16, 2012

The cure for cancer and Alternative Medicine

So it is that time in the week again where I sit myself down and try to collect my thoughts and efforts on a subject that may or may not capture you attention. Of course, I hope it does, that somewhere out there is someone that finds my all to infrequent ramblings are worth reading. I want to start this one with a disclaimer…..this is just an opinion piece. I am not a medical doctor nor in any other way really qualified to write about cancer and cancer cures but this is just to stupid not to comment on…..in my humble opinion. For further reading please read Scott Gavuara’s excellent post on the Science Based Medicine Blog at http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/rejecting-cancer-treatment-what-are-the-consequences/#more-22563 

 It all started with a Facebook link I received from one of my friends from linking to an article on healthwyze.org (http://healthwyze.org//index.php/component/content/article/431-the-american-cancer-society-admits-that-cancers-go-away-naturally.html).

 The article starts out with a quote from the Medical office at The American Cancer Society Dr Otis Brawley.

“We’re finding that about 25 to 30 percent of some cancers stop growing at some point, That can make some treatments look good that aren’t doing anything. Until doctors figure out how to identify which patients have cancers that won’t progress, the only option is to treat everyone.”

That is something we have known and the scientific community have made public for a long time. At no time that I am aware has it been denied that there is a fair amount of cancers that goes into remission some even to the point where they entirely disappear. But there is a reason science based physicians are so quick to respond to claims made by the alternative health industry….that is that very few of the treatments builds on or are even supported by relevant research….and no I do not say that this kind of research could only be made by reputed scientists…..but I must admit that I would prefer if it was or at the least if the AltMed community would recognize the same rigorous standards for testing claims as does the science based community.

 The author asks why patients are told the lie that they will certainly die if they refuse Chemotherapy and radiation. I do not believe any patients are and why would they, they can predict the future no more then you can. What a medical doctor can do is rely on evidence and statistical research and to evaluate the fact in each case separately…fully knowing that a cancer can go into remission just as well as it may metastasize into a vital organ and prematurely end the patient’s life. The outcome of any specific cancer depends of what type of cancer it is, which state it is in, the patients relative health and fitness, the patients dietary habits etc etc.

 The propensity to estimate life expectancy I would say is in many cases made on wishes from the patients and their family rather then the MD’s wishes to promote one treatment method over another. What the doctor can do and where we have relevant data is to say that……in our experience the estimated survival rate of patients with this specific type of cancer if recognized early is for instance 30% after 5 years and 5% after 10 years. With relevant treatment, the survival rate at 5 years may increase to 70% and at 10 years to…..I have yet to see any study of AltMed practices or dietary practices that can show similar statistics. With AltMed, it is instead the practice to say that this or that celebrity who were lucky enough to belong to the 5% who still survived after 10 years, did so because they ate a certain berry, drank vodka standing on their head or ended each day with foot massage and wishful thinking… or as the English comedian Dara O’briain says

 People would rather believe a story their mothers told them about a woman who had a headache and rubbed a cat against her head and when she woke up the day after the headache was gone”

 We know the that recommending Chemotherapy includes exposing the body to toxins….as a matter of fact that is the whole point with the treatment. We also know that radiation can alter or even kill cells ….and once again that is the whole point. Many cancer cells replicate with a faster rate then do “normal” cells and many of the Chemotherapy toxins are designed to or at least proven to prevent cell replication….as such of course they also inhibit the body’s normal regeneration of cells which is why many of the treatment regiments are made in intervals….to let the body regenerate in-between. But even knowing this side effect and others from chemotherapy it is often prescribed as part of a treatment plan including sometimes surgical removal of the tumour and or radiation therapy aimed at directly “killing” a particular tumour.

 All medical treatments include a cost benefit assessment of the program from the patients point of view….for instance, what is the statistical longtime survival rate for a patient as opposed to the negative effects of the drug in the short term….in other words and in this case we know the patient if exposed to the treatment plan, in the short-term will experience side effects but at the same time we know the relative rate of survival increase if the treatment is properly introduced….the benefits, the chance of living longer (note not the certainty that the patient will) against the short term discomfort the patient will experience during the treatment.

 It saddens me that so many people jump on the AltMed train without investigating it properly, without realizing the lies that surround it, the cherry-picking of data and quotes used the constant appeal to emotions rather then data, the constant appeal to anecdotes rather then properly researched treatment options. Indeed if a treatment has been around for thousands or even hundred of years and we still do not have any evidence for efficacy is it not time to discard that treatment as “not working” rather then to beat the already dead horse in hope that proof will come if we are just open to the possibility….you know what I am open to the possibility, now please prove to me that what you say is not just wishful thinking but instead proven with statistic significance in a large double-blind controlled study instead of the story of one man or woman rubbing a cat against their head and feeling better after doing so. Of course, as Mr. Gavuara mention in his post, there is a problem with blinding in many cancer studies but at least the studies of AltMed treatments should strive to adhere to the same rigorous standards as do the science based medical community. In that context one mans personal experience with a certain dietary plan surviving cancer carries no more weight then the woman rubbing the cat against her head to cure headaches…the question you must ask yourself is where is the statistical relevance in his experience and how does it compare to the 40% of that kind of cancer that naturally goes into remission. For argument sake let us imagine that we have case studies of tens of thousands with a certain kind of cancer and the relative survival rate of 40% after 5 years…..now ask yourself what is the significance of one mans dietary change and survival…..really if you come up with a higher number then virtually nothing I challenge you to redo your calculations and if you find a statistical significance in the result you need to take a course in statistics. 

 As to the accusation that the scientific community is collectively hiding the numbers, referring to the statistics, generated by research…that is preposterous. Scientific research is generally published in peer reviewed publication where the researcher has to be able to defend every scrap of data generated by the research as well as the methods used and the conclusions reached. The research is often meant to answer a predetermined question with testing methods and statistical analyze methods that are well formulated and discussed before conducting the research. In addition many medical research projects include blind reference or even double blind referencing as part of the analyze to prevent different kinds of bias to “sneak “ into the research. In addition a researcher have to also report all negative results as well as have to explain their presence. Most research papers on medical interventions even published AltMed ones can be found and read through different databases for instance PubMed however count on the full length articles only be available for a cost…after all both researchers, their institutions and the companies keeping these databases also need to survive… but none the less it is all there for the interested to “plunge into” …some preparations may be necessary to understand the lingo and the methods used but…it is all there for anybody to read…open to the public. Now show me any similar effort by the AltMed community to show transparency…..no there is nothing but hand waving, vague references to wished for but never demonstrated energy fields, misapplied and misunderstood quantum mechanics  and an appeal to antiquity or anecdotes.

I am tired of the AltMed community spreading their lies, tired of them promoting people to avoid using treatments that are proven if only do nothing but increase the survival rate at 10 years by a couple of percent in favour of mystical methods that do nothing but propose the patient wait to see if they belong to the lucky few that survives without treatment….in many cases do nothing more then postpone treatments that could have helped to the be introduced only at the point of no return…when nothing can be done but wait for death to come.

There is one thing we all agree on and that is that living a healthy life…eating healthy, exercise moderately, and drinking water increase our chances of living a full life to a ripe and old age…we may disagree on what is healthy….and when in doubt I lean towards science, but you may think differently…in the end we all have to make the same type of cost-benefit judgment as do the MD’s in the example above to decide what kinds of sacrifices we are willing to make in order life a full life…I have to weigh the temporary discomfort of exercising against the long term negative result of a higher then normal risk of dying prematurely through heart disease….you may have to weigh the temporary pleasure of smoking against dying prematurely of lung cancer…..there is always those kinds of judgments to be made….but when making the one about AltMed treatments to cure cancer there ought to be some transparency also within the AltMed community….when will we hear the first homeopath or other AltMed proponent acknowledge that you may be able to fool yourself into believing you feel better but otherwise the treatment does nothing….you may be within the lucky few that goes into remission but the treatment show absolutely nothing of statistical significance when it comes to increasing you chances of survival…. You complain about the lack of transparency in science based medicine, but I wonder where is the transparency within the AltMed community, where is the honesty…I do not doubt you honestly believe you are doing your best but where is the evidence…I am even going so far as saying I do not need an explanation as to what is the biological mechanism if at least you can show statistically relevant results in a large well controlled study.

I am sure this is not the last time I write about this even knowing I do not have the full understanding of the subjecti would like to…guess I just have to study more. Now it is time to end this as I am starting to have a headache…..wonder if I should take an wait it out, take an Asprin or find a lady who can rent me a cat…desicions, desicions

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