Why alternative therapies fail
Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on March 4, 2010
Cancer: The Complete Recovery Guide
Cancer Recovery Guide: 15 Alternative and Complementary Strategies for Restoring Health
For details go to www.fightingcancer.com
“This book tells me everything. Why didn’t my doctor tell me this?” – Rev. Bill Newbern
ALTERNATIVE CANCER TREATMENTS:
CAUSES OF FAILURE by Vincent Gammil
(Vincent runs an innovative cancer centre. His e-mail address is VGammill@roadrunner.com and the office number 858-523-9144)
The central purpose of the Center for the Study of Natural Oncology, a California not-for-profit corporation, is to help cancer patients find the most effective, yet non-toxic, cancer therapies that are available within their resources and then assist in obtaining and commencing therapies. We have no standardized protocols, nor do we sell any product or service. We have extensive informational resources and we help clarify all issues pertaining to therapeutic choices.
There is a wide range of effectiveness in the hundreds of alternative strategies and thousands of supplements. The purpose of this discussion is not to advocate nor denigrate any treatment. Instead, this is a survey of the very human factors that can undermine even the best alternative cancer treatments.
- Money Management. There are usually many paths to success in cancer treatment. The smartest choices are rarely the most expensive choices. Don’t overspend. Often a number of strategies must be tried before the right one is found. Set aside funds to allow for this. Likewise, don’t under spend. Most people try to accrue assets for a rainy day. A cancer diagnosis is that rainy day. Raise funds for cancer treatment as quickly as possible in case they are truly needed, but no cancer has ever been cured by simply throwing money at it.
- Silly Syllogisms. Examples: Cancer loves sugar. Carrots contain sugar. Therefore, don’t eat carrots. Another example: Cancer requires iron. Beets contain iron. Therefore, don’t eat beets. What is wrong with this logic? First, it ignores contrary clinical evidence. Second, simple syllogisms are not useful tools when analyzing complex systems containing homeostatic cybernetic loops.
- Profit. Granting treatment decisions to those who have motives that cater more to their own welfare rather than your welfare. The whole medical treatment paradigm is predicated on the quest for profit.
- Unuseful Clinicians . Granting treatment decisions to those whose skills are inadequate for the task. Keep in mind that 50% of all physicians graduated in the bottom half of their class. Overlay that with the inexperienced, the rigidly indoctrinated old guard, and those that are too fearful to try any therapy that didn’t come through, what they consider, proper channels.
- Biases. Examples would be patient biases (e.g., all natural, no needles, mustn’t hurt), physician biases (e.g., casual dismissal of anything a patient finds on the internet), cultural biases (e.g., nothing derived from pork, must be alkaline). Biases are like opinions: they might be correct and useful, but there is scant evidentiary foundation and that is why it is a bias. Your job is to identify biases and then consciously decide whether to retain them or chuck them.
- Scientistic Marketing. There are tens of thousands of medicines, supplements, herbs, and therapies that are available to cancer patients. Their promoters bathe them in glory. You are rarely informed of their limitations. Most will have skewed science, a fanciful history, cheerful testimonials, and weasel-worded assurances to support sales.
- Ideological Purity. A true believer of any simplistic theory will reflexively close the door to any treatment or theory deigned heretical. Examples of theories that often ignore the larger picture would be trophoblastic theory, candida origin, stealth viruses, pleomorphic bacteria, mycoplasma, liver parasites, acid pH, oncogenes, emotional trauma, hypoxic tissues, local inflammation, nutritional distortions, frankenfoods, and environmental pollution. The human mind is greatly discomforted by no explanation and is annoyed by complex explanations, but plenary explanations can be quite satisfying.
- Too Simple Fixes. All too often patients drop their critical guard when it comes to the acceptance of suggestions from well-meaning and genuinely sincere friends. It is easy to think that the suggestions may be innocuous, but occasionally these can undermine more considered therapies. If a simple fixes such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, homeopathy, or zeolite cured cancer then it would soon become a historical disease. For a lucky few a fervent belief in a simple fix may greatly reduce cortisol levels thus allowing the body to heal naturally.
- Impatience. What is essentially an immature indulgence has become the norm in our modern time-is-money rat race of a culture. It leads to a loss of making subtle observations, a lack of finesse in steering the course of a treatment, and then a manic flitting from therapy to therapy.
10. Unrelenting Stress. Some stress is good. It keeps us on our toes and even helps us grow brain cells, but non-stop stress is a merciless killer. One must routinely self examine to determine if fruitless stress is taking too dominant of a role in one’s life.
11. Mixed Psychological Intention. Everyone consciously wants to get well, but there are often influential naysayers doing a little back-seat driving from the netherconscious regions of the mind. It should be suspected in patients who find fault with every proposed treatment no matter how benign, and in those patients who consistently forget to take their meds.
12. Fighting Nature. Every med that produces a seemingly desirable effect also affects many other pathways and quietly contributes to the lessening of effectiveness of nature’s default healing pathways. Parsimony in prescribing has faded from the healer’s lexicon.
13. Conflicts in Mechanisms of Action. This is far more common than one might think. An example would be the use of stroma-digesting enzymes along with matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors. It is very common that effective cancer medications often become far less effective when combined, thus the importance of clinical trials.
14. Secondary Benefits. This is most uncomfortable for most cancer patients to think about. It is human nature to enjoy or even expect the sympathy, attention, and even pampering that is often bestowed on cancer patients. For many this is hard to give up. It is attractive enough that there are cases of people who have feigned cancer just for the attention, the donations, and the opportunity to turn their friends into a coterie of servants.
15. Inexperience With Cancer. Few cancer patients realize how quickly their condition can become acute. Inexperience with cancer has patients making treatment decisions too quickly or too slowly. Either way it lessens the chance of a favorable outcome. As soon as you know the stage and grade you should determine how much time you have to make smart treatment decisions.
16. Emotional Distracters. Go ahead and squander energy on blame, bitterness, fear, revenge, guilt, etc., and see how long you last. The same goes for argumentativeness in personal relationships.
17. Quality of Life. Poor QOL is a killer. Give serious consideration to QOL consequences of treatment options. A pyrrhic victory is no victory.
18. Rationalization of Bad Habits. Self-discipline is a common trait of winners. Some patients have little self-discipline. The job of the practitioner is to find a protocol that is doable for the patient. Most cancer patients will lie about their weaknesses, so the cautious practitioner works around this reality. Say, for example: “I have cancer diets that can include sugar. I prefer those that exclude it. What is your preference?” This invites candor. Among the worst patients are those who pride themselves on their discipline. Example: “You just tell me what to do, Doc, and I’ll follow it to a T. I am the world’s best patient.” Do you see what just happened? The patient just abdicated all personal responsibility and made you the fall guy in case his expectations are not met. This is why the effective practitioner always, always, sets up the relationship as a partnership.
19. Over Reliance on a Therapy. If a therapy is not working it is not working. The prestige of the institution or the physician, the past financial investment, the desire not to offend or disappoint the doc are all invalid reasons to continue with a therapy that is not working.
20. Therapy Fixation. Too often a person becomes overly focused on obtaining a single therapy. Once a person called me and desperately asked, “Where can I get Laetrile? Only Laetrile can save my mother!” People who think this way will overlook other therapies that might work much better.
21. The “Cure” Word. Few words are better at clouding judgment in a desperate cancer patient. Few words are more effective at separating a person from his money. Few words are more certain to disappoint. It is human nature to be seduced by treatments that claim to cure. One must always examine the evidence with a critical eye.
22. Driving Blind. It is well known that ionizing radiation is mutagenic. It is amazing though how often we at the cancer retreat center hear program participants tell us that they have no idea if their treatments are working as they fear diagnostic x-rays, PET-CTs, etc. They do not stop to consider that the evidence of the harm is statistical. That is, there is evidence that there is a demonstrable statistical risk of getting cancer years from now. For so many of these patients I can only say: if they can only be so lucky. These diagnostic tools can be a major factor in selecting treatments or in discontinuing treatments. There are often other ways to get much of the same information and you can inquire about this, but don’t automatically rule out conventional assessment tools.
23. Burning Bridges. All too often a patient will say things to a physician that will make him/her back away. Sometimes a patient may want this, but it is usually a mistake. Negative or cautionary comments might find their way into the patient’s chart and this will put other physicians on guard. There are times when you need a physician to do you a favor such as a blood test or a prescription. It is good to nurture your relationships with any and all healthcare providers.
24. Proprietary formulations. The euphemism “proprietary” in this context means the purveyor is more interested in protecting profits than in helping patients. Proprietary on the label also means that purchasers implicitly accept faith-based medicine. Their faith is in the integrity of the marketeers and the skills of formulators who operate in secrecy.
25. Heaven Bound. For those of a strong religious faith, the existence of an afterlife is just as real as our familiar physical world. Sometimes that faith can help shepherd a patient through rough patches, but at other times it does quite the opposite. When each passing day brings only increasing misery and decreasing financial resources, throwing in the towel can be quite attractive. “Transition” offers eternal peace, a homecoming with family and friends who are gone, communion with angels and saints, and the presence of the Almighty. Most religious faiths have equivalent life-after-death teachings. It is very difficult to help such a patient because of their tendency to rationalize away their obligations.
26. Treatment Consensus. “Alternative” cancer treatment is a catch-all phrase for everything that is unconventional. Proponents of the many therapies are often very opinionated and there can be strong disagreements among practitioners. If a cancer patient has a number of holistic/alternative advisors, it can be very disconcerting that there are few core agreements. They will disagree over muscle testing, homeopathy, marijuana, meridians, diet, and if prescription meds should be allowed. Any patient who waits for agreement among his therapists will eventually watch the clock wind down. Keep in mind that the practitioner MUST advise something different from other practitioners so he won’t be seen as a totally unnecessary co-signer.
27. Testimonials. You can be sure that the purveyor carefully selects any testimonials used in advertising. The deceased, of course, are unavailable to tell their side of the story. Testimonials can be useful if YOU are the one who tracks down several patient-consumers. You are more likely to get a balanced picture.
28. Lower Wattage Patients and Advisors. At least once a year I hear some version of, “My holistic practitioner muscle tested me and said that you can cure me!” It has always been our goal to put major healthcare decisions in the hands of those who would benefit or be harmed by those decisions, that is, the patient. But how do we help those whose critical thinking skills are so low that they are probably unteachable? I am open to suggestions.
29. Egregious Misdiagnosis/Mischaracterization. Most alternative treatments are based on conventional diagnosis. If the follow-up alternative treatment provider is a one-trick pony, for example, “Alkalinize everyone!” then misdiagnosis doesn’t really matter.
Both diagnostics and pathology are difficult sciences and it behooves the cancer patient to always inquire exactly how the diagnosis was arrived at. Get copies of all pathology reports for later scrutiny. If a treatment that should work, doesn’t, then it would be a good time to further confirmation of type, grade, and stage. Misdiagnosis and erroneous assessment of progress are very, very common.
30. Abstractomancy. One of the most useful tools to track scientific research is the perusal of Medline abstracts, but after you read tens of thousands of abstracts you see a sameness about them: The science is usually reductionistic to the point of irrelevance, findings commonly conflict with those in other abstracts, researchers never look outside their own indoctrinations, and they kowtow to those who issue grants.
It is against this backdrop that patients, practitioners, and marketers search for a novel idea that they just know will give them a winning combination. Their incautious enthusiasm quickly yields creative and superficially plausible ideas. Coalesce a few puzzle pieces and you have a new potential cure that would have patients become guinea pigs. It doesn’t seem to matter that this is a crazy quilt that gives equal weight to cell cultures and to different animal models. None of this hinders many practitioners from exercising their dime-a-dozen theories on naïve patients, and then charge them for the privilege.
I have listed many weaknesses in overall strategy that can undermine one’s chances to recover. There are many more that I will lay out in the future, but this is a start.
(Excerpted from the Monday afternoon seminar. As the Center for the Study of Natural Oncology, Inc. owns my seminars, all rights are reserved.)