Cancerfighter’s Weblog

Alternative cancer therapies and ideas

Archive for April, 2014

The Doc Says: “You’ve Got Cancer!” – So Now What?

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 30, 2014


The Doc Says: “You’ve Got Cancer!” – So Now What?
Imagine this scenario. You’re in the doctor’s clinic and he says to you: “I’m afraid the news is bad. You have cancer.”
What do you do now?
I imagine some of you will say to yourself: This is the worst news I could ever have. I had been hoping I would never hear those words. Now what do I do? Am I going to die?
You will feel devastated, terrified and lost
So, you will very likely respond by clutching to what seems to be the smart thing – to go ahead and do what the doctor advises. Here is a kind of certainty. He knows his job. All you have to do is submit to his judgement. Above all you don’t have to keep swimming in this sea of uncertainty.
Now, maybe that is the smart thing to do – or maybe it isn’t. But right now you don’t know. You do know that there are a lot of different ideas flying around – but what those ideas are you haven’t a clue. You also know there are lots of books – so presumably there are things to discuss. If all you had to do was follow the doctor’s suggestions why the need for all these books?
So some others of you will say to yourselves: OK. I guess I’d better go and educate myself about this cancer thing. But where do I start? [hint: read my book The Cancer Survivor’s Bible!]
But fast as you read you will feel you are on a treadmill that is constantly speeding up. Everything seems to be going faster than you can go – and much as you want to read and learn, your brain seems frozen with a kind of nauseous panic.
So what can you do?
Well your options at this stage are either to go ahead and do everything the doctor says or to hide away for a month or two with a stack of books and access to the internet and worry that the delay is going to have negative consequences.
Let’s pause here
So let me press the pause button on this and instead of asking you: What do you do now? Let me ask you instead:
What can you do now so that you can avoid being in this situation in the future?
Around one in two people are going to have this “You’ve got cancer” conversation with the doctor. If you value your life and well-being, it makes sense to be prepared now when you don’t appear to have cancer. You aren’t frozen by fear. Your mind is free to think things through in a relaxed manner. If you don’t prepare yourself then at some point in the future you will suddenly be saying to yourself: I wish I knew more about cancer.
Yes, now is the time to do the reading. Now is the time to say: OK if I get cancer this is what I am going to do. That will be my strategy. So when the time comes the conversation with the doctor will go like this.
Doctor: “I’m afraid the news is bad. You have clear signs of cancer.”
You: “OK. Doc. I’ve been expecting that for some time. So, this is what I want to do…”
And you will be wonderfully empowered by being in control.
Of course, we will all want to do different things because we are different people and will have different cancers. But the best decisions – whatever the decisions might be – are based on a clear understanding of the situation and the options.
Just taking the time now to inform yourself could add years to your life and could help you avoid fear, pain and life-long damage. Your fate is in your own hands but you’ve got to act now.
I know what I will do when I am diagnosed. Do you?
© Jonathan Chamberlain 2014

Jonathan Chamberlain is author of The Cancer Survivor’s Bible and Cancer? Don’t Panic! (free download from his website at www.fightingcancer.com

Advertisements

Posted in articles | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Monsanto GM corn controversy

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 22, 2014


The message was shared to me on Facebook. There was a picture of a cob of corn with the top of a grenade. The text read: “Monsanto has released its first direct to consumer product, a GM sweet corn, containing Bt toxin, designed to protect the plant by rupturing the stomach of every insect that feeds on it. Monsanto claims the toxi8n will break down before this product reaches your dinner table but rats fed the corn have shown signs of organ failure and the toxin has been detected in the bodies of pregnant women.”
This message is powerful and deeply emotive – but is it true?
What I discovered is that Bt “toxin” is “a naturally occurring bacterium common in soils throughout the world. Several strains can infect and kill insects. Because of this property, Bt has been developed for insect control…Unlike typical nerve-poison insecticides, Bt acts by producing proteins (delta-endotoxin, the “toxic crystal”) that reacts with the cells of the gut lining of susceptible insects. These Bt proteins paralyze the digestive system, and the infected insect stops feeding within hours. Bt-affected insects generally die from starvation, which can take several days. …” Colorado State University http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05556.html
However, it is very likely that the protein is in very much higher concentrations in the GM food than elsewhere and not everything natural is beneficial so I kept searching.
I discovered that the studies that purported to demonstrate the negative impacts on the livers and kidneys of rats and the residues in pregnant women are considered to be flawed. You can find details of these on Snopes. (http://www.snopes.com/food/tainted/monsantocorn.asp)
The problem you and I face is this: Pharmaceutical companies like Monsanto can afford to pay researchers to find flaws in research that throws a bad light on their products. (They would be derelict in their duty to their shareholders if they did not do this). They can also use the weapon of ‘scientific authority’ to persuade pages like Wikipedia (and Snopes) to publish information that puts their own views in a positive way and opposing views in a negative light. The views of a researcher at a highly regarded university (Harvard) will be given higher credibility than those of a researcher at an unregarded university (Madras). But what happens when the Madras researcher is right and the Harvard researcher wrong? Well, you’ll probably never know.
If you think that I am being overly suspicious of the ‘facts’ presented in say Wikipedia for example then understand this: It is estimated that as many as 50% of the articles published in major medical journals were not written by the people whose name appears as author. This is not the view of crazies. This is the view of the Editors of these journals. There is major fraud being perpetrated – and it is being perpetrated by the major drug companies.
We do know that all major universities are beholden to grants and other forms of financial support from major corporations and we know the impact this has because, from time to time, someone who doesn’t toe the line gets fired. The history of scientific progress is marked by the bodies of dissenters who were later proved right. So just because information that appears to be ‘factual’ and appears on a university website doesn’t put it beyond suspicion.
So, I think it would help if everyone who has had consultancy or research payments from any company, or who works for a department supported by a company, should be obliged to list these – and access to this list should be available at the click of a button on all online editions of scientific journals. Then we would know how impartial a view is.
But the other side of the coin should also be put under the microscope. My initial instinct on reading the Facebook message was to say “This is outrageous!” but then I became disturbed by the lack of factual references and its obvious propagandistic references to ‘pregnant women’.
Hype is a problem for all of us who belong to the natural therapies camp. We certainly needn’t (or shouldn’t) believe everything just because the conclusions fit in with our prejudices. So we can’t believe the hype and we can’t (necessarily) trust the ‘facts’ – what are we to do?
In this case there is a third option – abstention. We don’t need to choose sides. And we can do some thinking of our own.
The Snopes review of this particular story refers to a paper, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology in November 2012 written by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a professor of molecular biology at France’s University of Caen (not one of the great universities).
The conclusion of his research was that rats fed Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize developed more tumors, died in greater numbers, and died more rapidly during a given time span than rats from a control group who were not fed genetically modified corn.
The publication of this article immediately resulted in an inundation of letters criticising the research on many methodological grounds. A deluge of letters? This strongly suggests an organised campaign, which in turn suggests the mucky fingers of Big Pharma have been at work.
The paper was eventually withdrawn because of two objections involving the number of rats used and the type of rats. However, and this is what concerns me, there has been no attempt to repeat the study with a larger number of more appropriate rats.
Since these conclusions are disturbing we are right to ask: Why not?
So, am I going to trust GM corn? Hahaha! You’ve got to be joking.
We live in dangerous times.

Posted in Cancer Perspectives | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Medicine quote worth pondering

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 16, 2014


Serge Selian posted this comment on Facebook: I remember my grandpa a pharmacist himself used to tell everybody, that if you are sick go to the doctor let him check, and if he gives you a prescription, pay him so he can live, go to the pharmacy get your medicine, pay the pharmacist so he can live, then come home throw away all the medicines, so you can live.

Posted in Cancer Perspectives | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

face book group for cancer survivors

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 15, 2014


You’ve had cancer. It has been treated. Now you can forget about it – right? Well, no. Some of you have been damaged by the treatment so you have to cope with that. Some (most) of you are concerned the cancer will return. Here are some Facebook groups where you can share your ideas and experiences:

Cancer Recovery:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/cancerrecovery/

Surviving Hope:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Surviving-Hope/214623041889110

And of course you should still be reading about cancer. My free download Cancer? Don’t Panic is a good place to start http://www.fightingcancer.com/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Chemo – proven or disproven?

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 7, 2014


Proof or Disproof?

It seems obvious that to call a treatment proven is the opposite of calling a treatment disproven – but the more we think about it the less obvious this may be.

Let’s take as our starting point a treatment that is effective 95-100%. I think we would all be happy to consider such a treatment proven – and this is the case in relation to chemo and penile/testicular cancers. Chemo has a very high success rate in this area. Similarly we would be happy to call a treatment that had 0-5% success effectively disproven. Again chemo as a treatment for pancreatic cancers would come into this category and again there would be little argument. So far so good.

But what do we do with treatments that are 50% successful? Well, I think most of us would consider this also proven. It works half the time. That’s pretty good.

So what about a treatment that was 25% successful? Is this also ‘proven’? Perhaps, but we’re beginning to stretch the definition of ‘proven’ to its limits. OK so what about 10-15% effectiveness? Would this be proven or disproven?

It is in this area that calling it proven or disproven really depends on other factors – mainly on the point of view of the person judging the success or failure of the treatment. What about a 5-10% success rate? Again, if you are gung ho in favour of the treatment you’ll call it proven and if you are gung ho against it you’ll call it disproven. So there is no objective barrier between what is proven and what is disproven. It really is a matter of interpretation.

The problem for chemo is that its effectiveness as a stand alone treatment is not good. It varies from cancer to cancer. Overall the general range of figures quoted is 5-15%. But the truth is one or two cancers have very good responses to cancer and virtually all the rest have a very poor response. But many people with cancers for which the effectiveness is known to be low to zero nevertheless receive chemotherapy. In these cases doctors must accept that they are using disproven treatments.

Often they do so alongside surgery as insurance. Sometimes they mix two or three together and experiment on the patient. Sometimes the reason they give the treatment is not to be curative but to ‘buy time’. However there is a great deal of dispute as to how much time is generally bought in this way. Some people undoubtedly do buy a few months but many others die earlier than they might otherwise be expected to. All in all it’s a mixed picture. Doctors believe they are buying time because chemotherapy often causes tumour shrinkage – but this shrinkage is almost always temporary and when the tumour grows again it does so at vastly increased speed. Chemotherapy makes tumours more aggressive.
So, for many cancers, calling chemo a proven treatment is really stretching the bounds of what words mean.

If your doctor is advising chemo do get the figures for likely effectiveness. Chemo is generally brutal. You don’t want to incur pain only to discover it is likely hastening you to your death. Sadly that is what happens to some chemo patients. I know because it happened to my wife.

Posted in Cancer Perspectives | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

If herbs worked someone would have proved it – right? Umm…actually…no

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 7, 2014


If herbs worked someone would have proved it – right? Umm…actually…no

“If these things DID work why aren’t they producing the science papers to prove it?

This is a question straight from the heart, it’s a question that is fundamentally right. It should be asked and it should be answered. Unfortunately it is a question that ignores the rules of the game.

First of all who is ‘they’? Who should be producing the papers? You might answer ‘people who believe this stuff’. OK. I believe this stuff (or a lot of it) but when I put my hands in my pocket I don’t find the money needed. When I look in the mirror I don’t see someone with a PhD attached to a prestigious research facility.

OK. So, this ‘they’ maybe should be the cancer charities. They are the people who should be doing this research. But, again, cancer charities actually don’t actually do any research themselves. They give the money (or part thereof) to universities and research facilities in response to applications for research funding.

OK So now we have to ask the universities why they are not looking into these things…and so it goes.

If you follow this line to the end you will get very knotted.

We must also understand the difference between ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ – people switch these words around a lot, sometimes to pretend one is the other. So if you want proof then you are going to need $500,000,000 in your pocket, the backing of a company or university and approval from government agencies.

So how are you going to recoup this money? By selling something that ‘works’, that is ‘proven’ – which means it has to be patented, which means that it has to be artificial and man made, which means it can’t be natural. Also it has to be simple and single (i.e.a molecule) not complex and multiple, like the combined chemicals in any leaf of any plant in the world.

So, according to the rules of the game it is actually impossible to get proof.

And there are many other problems with research (see Goldacre’s Bad Pharma).

So we have to be very careful about assuming herbs and supplements don’t work.

Most scientific fundamentalists dismiss anecdotal evidence. I see them as shining examples of what’s really true. That is where we differ.

We also differ in assuming the discussion is about TRUTH. For me the discussion is always about making a decision – and the choice I am faced with can either be supported by a fact (that may be the result of fraudulent science) or a personal example standing in front of me. I know which way I will go when the time comes. In a world where nothing is certain any decision you make is a gamble. There it is. Scientific fundamentalists think their ‘facts’ are islands of certainty. They are not. My anecdotal cases are not islands of certainty. They are indications of possibility.

Posted in Cancer Perspectives | Leave a Comment »

Should we cut homoeopathy from the NHS budget?

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 7, 2014


Here is an argument I have come across recently:
“The NHS budget is under many stresses and there are strong moves to get homoeopathic treatment elminated as a cost item – therefore saving £12 million. It is after all completely ineffective because it cannot possibly work.”

Even such a short statements throws up enormous discussion points on such questions as:
1. Does homoeopathy work in itself or does it just trigger placebo responses?
2. If it does only work through placebo responses is it ethical or unethical to continue its use?
3. If there is evidence that it does work in itself what are we to do with the belief that it simply cannot work?
4. If there is ‘evidence’ it works perhaps there are flaws in the research.
5. If a lot of people insist that it does work maybe £12 million is cheap at the price because it keeps those people from needing more expensive drugs, even if it doesn’t.
6. What else could we eliminate costing £12 million or more that would be a better use of our budget-cutting time?

Well, let’s take chemo, which I discussed below. If we got rid of all chemo that would save a great deal more money. At £30,000 a pop we would only need to eliminate 400 uses of chemo to pay the entire budget for homoeopathy – seems like a good deal to me – especially as we know that chemo is not very effective for most cancers – if it were more effective cancer wouldn’t be the leading killer it is – that it is used often just to buy a few months of life. There are some cases where chemo is definitely useful but there are times when the doctors do not truly believe that the chemo is justified but they have to give it because:
1. The patient or family are begging for it in the mistaken belief (mostly) that it might be effective
2. It is the protocol
3. Not giving it could rebound in the form of negative impacts to career prospects, potential law suits for negligence etc etc

And the taxpayer is funding this.

So in value for money terms homoeopathy is a great deal more effective than chemo.

But of course the argument that homoeopathy is a waste of money has nothing to do with the money. It is about attacking ‘false belief’. It is driven by ideology by scientific fundamentalists who demand certainty. Unfortunately we live in a world where reality is always going to be filled with uncertainty. To deal with this problem scientific fundamentalists try to simplify reality so that it fits into their scheme of things and so can become ‘certain.’

To achieve this aim they find they cannot rely on personal experience for answers (much too subjective) so faced with a choice between a clear example that hits them in the face and data from a research centre of excellence, they will say to themselves: The scientists are right. And because they are right there is no point in my doing anything that might give me direct personal experience that may conflict with this truth.

We can see this with vitamin C. It has been ‘proved’ that it doesn’t cure colds or cancer. Yet I know that every time I feel a cold or flu coming along all I have to do is throw large quantities of the stuff down my throat. Works say 95% of the time. Placebo? Hey, if it takes large doses of vitamin C to trigger a placebo response then give it to me. (though it appears that the placebo response is not as strongly connected with belief that something works as we imagine it might be)

We can see this with lavender essential oil. Cut or burn yourself and all you have to do is pour the oil liberally over the affected area and it will very quickly heal. Yet ask the experts and they will say there is no empirical evidence that it is effective. Who are you going to believe?

So what do I trust? My experience or the experts? Since my experience has contradicted the ‘evidence-based’ opinion of the experts, I find I have no choice but to:
a) view all ‘evidence-based’ opinions with a very suspicious mind.
b) base my understanding of the world on my own experience and the experience of others – so called ‘anecdotal evidence’ (my experience is your anecdotal evidence).

We now come to ask the question as to why we are asking these questions in the first place? Is it to know the truth? Or is it to have a guide, a sign-post to decision making? If I see that someone has beaten their cancer using a herb, I will try that herb if I get cancer. Why? Because the risk benefit analysis suggests that would be the smart thing to do.

Anyone who bases all their knowledge solely on published empirical research is using a very restricted rationality to deal with the problems of life. Let them get on with it, but let me have the treatments I want. I don’t want a medical system that is a dictatorship of doctors. I want a medical system that gives me free access to what I want (herbs, supplements and other alternative therapies)

Posted in Cancer Perspectives, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The cost of chemotherapy

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 2, 2014


What is Chemotherapy costing us?

The total NHS Budget is £110 billion (2013/2014)

Round about 9% of that goes on cancer treatment (£9.4 billion). This is equivalent to an average of £30,000 per person with cancer. Over the next decade the costs of cancer care in the UK are expected to rise to £15.3 billion in 2021, which is equivalent to an average of £40,000 per person with cancer (a 62% increase)

Just over a quarter of that expenditure goes on hospital inpatient costs, not including surgery (just the cost of caring for a person in hospital). Almost a quarter (22%) goes on the cost of surgery, and 18% goes on drug treatments (including costs of giving the drug). The remainder of the budget goes on outpatient costs including diagnostic procedures (8%), radiotherapy treatment (5%), cancer screening (5%), specialist services, such as palliative care (5%), and other community services including general practice care (10%).

Over the past seven or eight years newer technologies have been estimated to add around 3.7% per year to the total cancer expenditure. This rate of increase is expected to apply in the coming decade as well.

Given these figures we can see that chemotherapy costs the NHS around £1.7 billion and within ten years and if this increases by 3.7% – as indicated by a report by BUPA then in 2021 the total chemo cost in that year will be £2.3 billion. The total cost over 10 years then will be around £20 billion. This is just for the chemo.

What can we buy for that money?
400,000 houses (@£50,000 each)
Total one fifth of the NHS budget for one year

If chemo was effective across the board then this might seem a price worth paying but the general consensus is that – at the very most generous assessment by the most convinced supporters – only 15% of cancer patients benefit from this expenditure (the usual assessment is less than half this figure).
Does this really make sense?

© Jonathan Chamberlain 2014

Posted in Cancer Perspectives | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »