Below a cancer specialist warns people with cancer of being "exploited by alternative therapists" in the British Medical Journal. I would remind him that There are crooks in all professions and hope and love are therapeutic interventions. Some may call it placebo, I would say that is what the body has been designed to do, heal itself with minimalist intervention. The rescuing hug story is one of the most remarkable example of this that I have come across .
My mother died of cancer almost 20 years ago. Over a period of seven years and many operations most of her intestine was removed, right up to her death she maintained her profile on Irish TV and radio in her fight for social justice dying happy just four hours after it was announced Nelson Mandela was to be released.
Hope is what kept her going for two years , when she was told the cancer was terminal and she did not have long left. An event that transformed her battle with cancer was a week spent at the Bristol Cancer Centre, now called the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre after its founder. This centre came in for criticism a few years ago because research showed their success was much less than the NHS. Researchers forgetting people who go to Bristol are desperate because the NHS has given up, and told them their is no hope. Bristol gave my mother the hope that she could still live her dreams and she did.
Those of you who attended the Health Promotion seminar in 2004 will have heard Professor Theodore McDonalds telling us how he was given six weeks to live, five years ago, I have seen his x-rays, its energy not collagen holding his tissue together.
I would be failing in my duty as a primary care practitioner if I did not give hope to people who have had It taken away by the biomedical model. That is not the same as promising them a cure and relieving them of large sums of money which is fraud and a criminal act.
A patient of mine was recently told the chemo had not worked and after 2 years medical treatment there was little more the doctors could do, she rang to cancel
her next chiropractic appointment through.
I told her about my mother and Bristol and reminded her about chiropractic not being simply a treatment for her back pain and rather than stop she could come in more often. This is an intelligent woman, she was not under the impression chiropractic would cure her cancer. She did know that chiropractic had helped her adapt better to physical stressors in the past and she has nothing to loose by going to Bristol and continuing chiropractic care. I adjusted her and when I saw her after her week in Bristol she was transformed and was upbeat again. The awful thing is there are those out there who should know better, would say I am taking advantage of this lovely lady. She died two months later just as the medical doctors had predicted. While I did not add to her quantity of life I have no doubt I added to her qulaity of life and her husband and family thanked me at her funeral.
It is time to protect patients from “vile and cynical exploitation” by the alternative medicines industry, argues a cancer expert in this week’s BMJ.
It is estimated that up to 80% of all patients with cancer take a complementary treatment or follow a dietary programme to help treat their cancer, writes Jonathan Waxman, Professor of Oncology at Imperial College London.
Yet the rationale for the use of many of these approaches is obtuse – one might even be tempted to write misleading, he says.
Indeed the claims made by companies to support the sales of such products may be overtly and malignly incorrect and, in many cases, the products may be doctored by chemicals borrowed from the conventional pharmaceutical industry. The reason that these products are accessible to patients is that they are not subject to the testing of pharmaceuticals because they are classified as food supplements.
So why do patients take alternative medicines? Why is science disregarded? How can it be that treatments that don’t work are regarded as life saving?
Waxman believes that it is because the complementary therapists offer something that doctors cannot offer – hope. If you eat this, take that, avoid this, and really believe this then we can promise you sincerely that you will be cured.
And if the patient is not cured, it is the patient who has failed, not the alternative therapy. The patient has let down the alternative practitioner and disappointed his family who have encouraged his “treatment.”
As well as the complementary medicines they take, many patients will have changed their diets in order to cure their cancers, says the author. But although there is a strong dietary basis to the development of cancer, once cancer has been diagnosed no change in diet will lead to any improvement in cancer outcomes, he writes.
Why do patients change their diet? For some it is a way of taking back some control of a situation that is entirely out of their control, says Waxman. For others it is because of the pressure put on them by families, friends or vested interest groups to “go organic.”
“It’s time for legislation to focus on a particularly vulnerable section of our society and do something to limit the exploitation of our patients,” he says. Why not subject the alternative medicines industry to the level of scrutiny that defines pharmaceuticals?
“Reclassify these agents as drugs – for this is after all how they are marketed – and protect our patients from vile and cynical exploitation whose intellectual basis, at best, might be viewed as delusional. The current EU initiative to bring forward legislation on this matter is welcomed.”