When facing a potentially deadly disease like cancer it is perfectly normal to seek out all “alternatives” and options. Ideally, your doctors, which hopefully includes a well trained oncologist, should be able to fill you in on what works and the best possible treatments. But can they or do they keep things from you?
Alternative Cancer Cures?
When you hear the word cancer associated with your name or that of a loved one, the lights go out for a while and an ocean of confusion swirls around your head. Is this it….the end? Is there a cure? What are my chances?
The answers often go in one ear and out the other. In addition the answers are confusing and complicated. The treatments sound rather harsh (i.e. major surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) and the side effects do not seem pleasant, or even acceptable. You get the feeling that your options are actually limited and you are being forced into a corner with uncertain outcomes on the other side. You may agree or reluctantly proceed because you feel that you have no choice. After it’s over, the treatment may in fact have been much easier to tolerate than you imagined or it may have been an unholy terror and massively unpleasant experience. Everyone is quite different, and the truth for most is most commonly in between. Mainstream medicine is moving steadily and quickly towards targeted personalized cancer therapies and advances are accelerating. But what about the here and now while you are being treated? Either at the beginning of treatment or after the initial therapy is over and there is a recurrence, where the whole gut-wrenching scenario starts to play out again, you can’t help but wonder if you were told everything and maybe there was a kinder gentler alternative with better outcomes that was kept from you. Are there actually alternative cancer cures? You may have seen a book, or received an email or heard from a relative that mainstream medicine and your doctor as just part of the “Cancer Industry” and that there are indeed secret cures that “they” are not telling you about (whoever “they” are). The email you may have received goes so far as to say that these “lies” by your doctors are just so they can keep feeding “Big Pharma”, getting kickbacks and keeping the whole sweet deal rolling to pay for garages full of Ferraris. They claim that there are indeed “alternative” cancer cures that are being held back from you, that you are getting the raw end of the deal and that the “War on Cancer” is a failure and big joke. In the end you will draw your own conclusions no matter what I say here. However, consider this. For the above scenario to be an international reality, literally millions of doctors, scientists, lab assistants, nurses, around the planet would have to be in cahoots. Furthermore, socialist, communist and capitalist countries would all have to collaborate to “keep the cancer cures from you”, not just the FDA. There are of course potential perverse incentives in the profit model that Big Pharma works under, but they can’t keep this conspiracy of this magnitude alive alone. Furthermore, thousands upon thousands of international scientific articles come out every year looking at what works, what does not, what needs to be explored further and what can hurt you. These include mainstream clinical trials as well as tons of basic science studies, many of which look at proposed “alternatives”. Some studies are designed better than others, and are at different levels of “proof”. In other words, some are much stronger that others in stating what would work in humans, especially in many humans rather than isolated “miracles”. It’s impossible to read all of these, but there are many reviews of multiple studies (called meta-analyses) which help one get the big picture. Reviewing as much as you can, through trained eyes or with the assistance of someone who is trained in clinical medicine, some interesting conclusions can be drawn. In the end, if you look at this all objectively, a prudent conclusion might be that if there are true “alternatives” they are either in the pipeline of proposed treatments to study due to scientific plausibility (i.e. there are anti-cancer biochemical/molecular pathways that make sense to explore) or they are already being studied. Based on multiple scientific principles, what appears to be so at first glance, “ain’t necessarily so”. Humanity has proven this a zillion times over. The world is not flat, we CAN fly and we can go to the moon. On the other side of the coin, proposed treatments have bombed out over the millennia. Keep in mind that at one point cigarettes and radioactive substances were used to actually TREAT various mild lung and intestinal conditions. So, “alternative” is a word which speaks volumes and means quite the opposite of what alternative practitioners want you to think. It is not a viable “alternative” as would be defined by Webster’s, but rather an unproven, disproven, and potentially dangerous treatment.
Any Role At All for “Alternative” Unproven Therapies?
Having said all of the above, is there a role for trying “alternative” therapies at any point? My personal opinion is that if there are no reasonable options left in mainstream anti-cancer therapies AND if the proposed “alternative” is not known or suspected to be dangerous, it may be something to try. For example, the “Ketogenic Diet” is currently being studied in various cancers and has some plausibility to it. This diet can produce side effects, but if one were accepting of these, it may be a reasonable “alternative” on an individual basis. In the end, I hope the message that is imparted here is that “alternative” cancer cures are not a pot of gold that has been hidden from you by unscrupulous doctors and “the Cancer Industry”. They are in fact unproven (or currently being studied) and may be dangerous in some cases. In some cases they have been disproven, which should raise the thought that there are individuals on the other side of the fence that are making a ton of money selling bogus therapies. The entire discussion above does not include integrative natural and complementary support for cancer patients. The core of integrative medicine and integrative oncology is inclusion of effective support and anti-cancer therapies that work with mainstream cancer treatments. These approaches may be natural in origin but they are by and large not “alternative”. Mainstream oncologists in various countries are a little different in that they may use unproven therapies more or less readily than others. As noted above, there is a time and place to consider various options on an individual basis. In the United States, mainstream oncologists are generally not trained in integrative approaches, but some partner up with integrative practitioners. Others are not as open to this, partly because they do not understand the intent. So, in some cases mainstream oncologists simply can’t address what is integrative and appropriate vs what is “alternative” and likely not effective. This does not mean they are holding anything back from you along the conspiracy theory line of thought we touched on in this discussion. If this conspiracy were true then many doctors might seemingly face malpractice or even criminal charges. In fact the opposite it true. Some doctors may be overprotective in not knowing about integrative oncology and discouraging, but they still have your best interests at heart in keeping you away from charlatans. If you want more information about what works and what does not in the integrative cancer world, seek out a trained and certified practitioner who can work with your oncologist.