Cancerfighter’s Weblog

Alternative cancer therapies and ideas

The more negative you are to alternative therapies for cancer, the more you have to take them

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on August 31, 2012


That’s right. The more negative you are to alternative therapies, the more alternative therapies you have to take. The logic is unassailable.

An argument is only as good as the assumptions it is based on. So here is the only assumption you have to accept. Alternative therapies – diets, herbs, supplements – have some anti-cancer benefit. How big a benefit is not the issue. You just have to accept that there is some benefit. The alternative is to suggest that there is absolutely no possible benefit. So, if you accept there may be some benefit then the argument follows along mathematical lines.

Let’s say you are very gung-ho about the potential of alternative therapies you want to take. You think each of them will have a 75% chance of working. Then you only need to do three such therapies to have a 98% likelihood of beating the cancer. The first therapy will cure 75% of the people taking it, the second therapy will mop up a further 18.75% and the third therapy will cure a further 4.68% (75% + 18.75% + 4.68% = 98.43%)

OK. Let’s say you think it’s a fifty-fifty option. In that case you will need to do five therapies to give you a 97% chance of a cure. I’ll leave you to check the maths

Hmm, you might say, I go along with the view that there is some benefit to diets and herbs and supplements but I wouldn’t put it anywhere near 50%. My guess is that there may be a 20% potential on average. Well in that case you  have to do a dozen or so therapies to give yourself a greater than 90% chance of recovery.

You see? The more negative you are the more therapies you have to do. And you know what? None of us can say what the likelihood is of any therapy working in our particular case. It actually pays to be negative.

The more negative you are, the more therapies you need to do, and therefore the more likly it is that you will recover. It’s just plain simple maths.

Or do you need a doctor to give you permission to do something different from what he’s offering?

The truth is for the average cancer the doctor will recommend chemo, which will cause great pain and has a less than 10% chance of working (very likely less than 5%). The alternative approaches, on the other hand, will not cause pain and – collectively – offer a far greater chance of working (unfortunately the doctor disapproves of them).

So ask yourself this: Is your life, and the quality of your life, and the importance of your life to your family and friends less important to you than your doctor’s approval? For those who turn away from the alternative approaches and go with the conventional approaches, I guess it must be.

Not only is that weird, it is completely irrational – unless of course you believe that NO amount of vitamins and/or minerals and/or herbs and/or organic fruit and vegetables – not to mention the exercise, the meditation, the visualisation and all the other alternative therapies that people have said worked for them will help your body fight the cancer.

(c) Jonathan Chamberlain 2012

Jonathan Chamberlain is author of The Cancer Survivor’s Biblewww.fightingcancer.com

“An inspirational guide – a must for anyone who fears the dreadful diagnosis.” – The Midwest Book Review

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28 Responses to “The more negative you are to alternative therapies for cancer, the more you have to take them”

  1. Paul said

    On that basis if you thought there was a 0% chance of all the alternative therapies working you would have to do an infinite amount of every alternative therapy which proves your theory wrong.

    • Read the assumption again. That is the basis of the argument. As I made clear in the article, the argument is valid as long as you assume there is some benefit. Obviously if you assume – bizarrely in my opinion – that there is no benefit then the argument doesn’t work – but that doesn’t ‘disprove’ anything. And this is not a ‘theory’ it is a mathematical proof based on a single axiom. If you don’t accept the axiom then clearly you cannot accept anything derived from that axiom.

      • Paul said

        Indeed. If there were 1000 alternative therapies and someone thought they all had a 0.1% of working would that require them to assume that 1 of those therapies will work and so have a go at all 1000 therapies, I doubt it. I would take the view that if the 1000 therapies are all that unlikely to work then none of them are worth trying. I am sure that there are lots of alternative therapies that can help in all sorts of ways by the way in if I got into trouble with cancer I know that it will be some of the alternative methods of dealing with it that I’ll be using first and the decision is based on stats.

      • You are right. There is a point where the likelihood of success ceases to be meaningful. This was meant to be a playful (but nevertheless serious) pointing out that if alternative approaches have any reasonable benefit – say anything higher than 10% on average – then you can compound the benefits.

      • Paul said

        There’s another problem. If in reality a set of ten therapies each had a 10% chance of working but a cancer victim guessed they had a 50% chance of working then the unfortunate sufferer would think they had only got to pick any two of the ten therapies to get a result but in fact they would be way off the mark and would still have a low chance of getting a good result. In the real world of dealing with cancer which is jam packed with a vast pile of ifs and buts and all sorts of uncertainties and problems things aren’t so straight forward.

      • Again, I think I answered that point in the article – it pays to have a negative (conservative) view so that you do more rather than less. Many people actually do what you state – they rely on one or two therapies and put all their trust in them when it is much better to assign a modest value on their potential to cure so that you do more therapies. Yes, the real world is complex but the principle remains true.

      • Paul said

        Then you have the problem of where to draw the line, how negative do you have to be to give yourself a good chance and when you’ve decided how do you know you’re not significantly incorrect ?

      • Yes. Though I would say that for most practical purposes I would suggest that you should aim to do about a dozen therapies. Is this correct, adequate, who can say? The world is full of unknowables. What we do know is that chemo doesn’t work for most cancers and radiation and surgery are also of unknown benefit. So,… Everybody has to do their own calculation of what to do and how much or how many. I’m just throwing thoughts into the pond to see where the ripples go.

    • Paul said

      So you think that there’s a lower limit to how negative you can be, you’ve set the level of negativity to that which results in trying 12 therapies, your ignoring the attributes of any therapies selected and how they may interact etc and after having done all that you agree that your decisions could all be wrong and that its not possible to know how correct ones choices might be. I think that proves that your original idea is full of holes and doesn’t work in the real world. But as I’ve already mentioned I’m not against alternative therapies as such.

      • I think you are slightly fixated with ‘proving me wrong’ in some way. I am merely presenting the case for compounding the benefits of different treatments. Clearly the real world is more complex but nevertheless there is real benefit from doing multiple strategies and that is what I wished to focus on and to demonstrate to people the benefits that may be achieved through this compounding. And yes, there is, as you yourself point out, a point at which the negativity is so high that the supposed benefits from alternative treatments become so low that they aren’t worth doing. This is for each person to decide for themselves. There is no mathematical formula that will establish this point. Can we leave it there?

      • Paul said

        You started by stating that there is a mathematical formula that will establish how many alternative therapies you need to try. In subsequent posts you abandon the method in various ways and clearly state that it doesn’t actually work (where you state that people need to try 12 therapies but actually they cannot know if they’re making the correct decision). I put it to you that your original idea is wrong, You’ve admitted that in subsequent posts and it would be better if you came up with some more relevant methods for deciding on what and how many alternative treatments to try. Your original idea is not very useful and could be very confusing to people who have very difficult
        decisions to make.

      • You started by stating that there is a mathematical formula that will establish how many alternative therapies you need to try.

        No, I didn’t.

        In subsequent posts you abandon the method…

        No, I didn’t

        I put it to you that your original idea is wrong,

        No, it isn’t.

        You’ve admitted that in subsequent posts and it would be better if you came up with some more relevant methods for deciding on what and how many alternative treatments to try

        No, I haven’t.

        Your original idea is not very useful

        Yes, it is

      • Paul said

        You stated “And this is not a ‘theory’ it is a mathematical proof based on a single axiom.”

        Your maths includes stating ones negativity about a number of alternative therapies as a % and then calculating from that % negativity the number of alternative therapies to use.

        That is maths, you’ve used a mathematical formula. so you cannot subsequently state that you haven’t used a mathematical formula.

        Therefore my objection is sustained.

        If I look through you site will I find a lot more of this type of confusing nonsense that doesn’t apply at all in the real world where people have to make very difficult decisions.

      • Paul said

        “In subsequent posts you abandon the method…

        “No, I didn’t”

        Yes you did. You clearly state that people should try 12 alternative methods. You have quite clearly abandoned your method and the maths and replaced it with a fixed number of alternative treatment to try.

      • Paul said

        Your original idea is not very useful

        “Yes, it is”

        Your idea is not only not very useful, it positively counter productive, hugely simplistic, exceedingly inappropriate and is likely to put people off ever bothering with alternative therapies.

  2. Judy said

    Your point is interesting BUT the most negative part of alternative medicine, at least for most of us here in Europe, are the finances. Alternative medicine is for those who can afford it, as is living where there is fresh air, a nice atmosphere, no or little radioactivity, fresh uncontaminated foods at an affordable price, etc. My husband did a wonderful alternative treatment until our resources were totally gone and we were in debt and could not get any more loans or help. Then we went conventional, though we didn’t allow the chemo. It wasn’t our “choice”, it was all that there was left before bleeding to death. It is part of the reality we have no choice on. Thank you anyway.

    • I agree that some alternative therapies are extremely expensive – particularly if you go to the specialist clinics – but not all alternative therapies are expensive – a commitment to an organic fruit-and-vegetable diet will be slightly more expensive but there are many therapies (citric acid, vitamin C, selenium, MMS etc) that are really very cheap

      • Paul said

        Your original idea becomes redundant and non applicable if you simply discard therapies from consideration on the basis of cost. Thus your method for deciding on the number of alternative therapies is mostly inapplicable, faulty, confusing and inappropriate in the real world where cost can be a deciding factor.

  3. Paul said

    Your maths looks wrong. You state: “Let’s say you are very gung-ho about the potential of alternative therapies you want to take. You think each of them will have a 75% chance of working. Then you only need to do three such therapies to have a 98% likelihood of beating the cancer. The first therapy will cure 75% of the people taking it, the second therapy will mop up a further 18.75% and the third therapy will cure a further 4.68% (75% + 18.75% + 4.68% = 98.43%)”

    That is incorrect when your considering an individual who is using your completely inappropriate and unusable method of deciding how many therapies to try by affording each therapy a probability of success.

  4. Paul said

    You wrote: “The more negative you are, the more therapies you need to do, and therefore the more likly it is that you will recover. It’s just plain simple maths.”

    It would help if your plains simple maths were correct which it isn’t. It also helps if the the plain simple maths is used where it is applicable and is appropriate and in this case you haven’t.

  5. Paul said

    You wrote:-

    “So ask yourself this: Is your life, and the quality of your life, and the importance of your life to your family and friends less important to you than your doctor’s approval? For those who turn away from the alternative approaches and go with the conventional approaches, I guess it must be.”

    Do you really think that when family and friends are of the opinion that the conventional medical methods would be best its because they have decided that the doctor’s approval is more important to them than the cancer victim’s life? Has it occurred to you that it may be that the family and friends of the cancer victim have come to the conclusion that conventional medicine might afford the best chance of success and that is all they’re thinking about and they’re not interested in the approval of the doctor as such and they definitely haven’t put the life of the ill person in second place to the approval of the doctor.

  6. I do think that doctors carry enormous symbolic weight of authority and that is why most people go along with the conventional approach. They simply don’t question it. More importantly they would feel positively scared to do anything that the doctors disapprove of.

    Don’t get me wrong, for some cancers the conventional approach has been successful – but for the majority of cancers (if we take lumpectomy out of the picture – because I have no argument with surgical removal of a lump) any impartial comparison of conventional and alternative approaches has to be on the side of the alternatives – but where are patients going to find this impartial discussion? Not from the doctors and not from the vast majority of books. That is why I wrote The Cancer Survivor’s Bible. People need to have an understanding of the whole context of cancer before they can properly make a sensible, rational decision. Until they have reached that point – and this will generally take a lot of time and thinking. That is why most people who opt for the alternative route are those for whom the conventional approach has not been successful (or in some cases because they are considered ‘terminal’)

    • Paul said

      I haven’t read you book but based on the way you describe you idea about the negativity level towards alternative treatments being inversely proportional to the alternative treatment selection and useage rate then I don’t believe your book would be worth reading. It is possible that there are doctors and other sources of information that provide relevant information which could help people make a rational and sensible decision. Your item seems to be almost entirely devoid of a rational and sensible thought process. Even if we take the view that generally speaking we stand a better chance with alternative treatments it doesn’t follow that you idea about how to determine the number of treatments to be tried is practical, correct or relevant.

  7. Paul said

    You wrote:

    “An argument is only as good as the assumptions it is based on. So here is the only assumption you have to accept. Alternative therapies – diets, herbs, supplements – have some anti-cancer benefit. How big a benefit is not the issue. You just have to accept that there is some benefit. The alternative is to suggest that there is absolutely no possible benefit. So, if you accept there may be some benefit then the argument follows along mathematical lines.”

    There are a lot of ifs and buts to be looked at and taken into account when deciding on which and how many alternative treatments to select. There are lots of issues and factors to be considered, its a very complex and difficult undertaking. Stating that you just have to accept that there is some benefit and how much benefit is not the issue is extensively incorrect as your idea depends entirely on how much benefit you afford to any particular alternative treatment. In addition it is entirely possible to conclude that a particular alternative treatment would have no benefit or be actually detrimental while two other treatments might have a 15% and 23% probability of success for instance.

    The entire piece looks like a piece of health industry Multi Level Marketing sales patter designed to impress and persuade while actually being extremely short on logic, reason and truth.

  8. Jonathan, I didn’t read the entire diatribe of comments ensuing your article, but I’m both gratified that you tried to answer him, and glad that you knew when to stop. You’ve planted a seed, and that’s all you can do. When he gets sick, he has a choice to think about, and what he does will depend on how much courage, faith, self-confidence, research, and trust in God that he’s got. You can’t give it to him. He can’t get it by trying to prove himself right. He’s got to humble himself and learn, or life will teach him, and life doesn’t wear velvet gloves.

    • Yes. We live and die by our beliefs.

    • Paul said

      Maybe you should read my entire diatribe of comments to get a clear view of what I’m talking about.You’ve introduced the concept of “trust in god” into the discussion, I doubt that having trust in god will help one to make a better decision, statistically speaking people who tend to think that trust in god is particularly important seem to be subjected to all sorts of horrible misfortune all the time. Knowing that coffee for instance has ways of screwing up one’s immune system, endocrine system, hormones control and production, opioid levels /receptor expression and responses is down to science, knowledge and research, not trust on god. Courage doesn’t really come into it, some would say that in some ways takes more courage to go the conventional medicine route. Faith won’t help either, being analytical might though. Proving to myself and others that a particular method being presented regarding the choice of alternative therapies is basically nonsense is a reasonable activity. The fact that we’ve got to learn doesn’t involve not being critical about some of the info we come across. Life not wearing velvet gloves is part of the reason we need to be highly analytical about the sort of stuff we see in this kind of blog. Being humble has nothing to do with being willing to learn. There’s nothing wrong with applying a bit of critical analyses.

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