Should Patients be Given False Hope?
It sounds optimistic. But it might not be.
Cancer patients often have raised hopes when told they'll probably "respond" well to treatment.
But oncologists have a peculiar way of measuring success.
"Response rate" is a highly misleading term. It simply means that during clinical trials with a select group of patients, doctors saw a 50 percent reduction in tumor size after a particular drug was given. The shrinkage had to last at least four weeks.
However, this may or may not prolong life. In fact, what often follows is rapid decline. When the cancer returns, it's much more aggressive.
Any reasonable person, though, would assume "good response" means either beating the disease or enjoying many more cancer-free years.
Cancer patients deserve much better information, so they can have a fighting chance of staying alive, and the ability to explore potential treatments that may help them do so.
Chemotherapy won't cure metastatic breast, lung, prostate or colon cancer, nor will it eradicate tumors that have spread to the bone or brain.
Any drugs given, under these circumstances, will be palliative rather than curative. This is something doctors are well aware of. So it's only fair that patients have the same insider knowledge. But, apparently, they don't.
Clinical researched published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine underscored the fact that many oncologists, perhaps, aren't totally forthcoming.
More than 80 percent of patients with advanced colon cancer expected to be alive and well after finishing their courses of "chemo." And the same was true for 61 percent of people with stage IV lung cancer.
Both of these conditions have a very poor prognosis. An oncologist, if pressed, would tell you mainstream medicine considers these patients terminal. And that chemotherapy is given only to reduce symptoms and possibly extend their lives. Whether this does buy more time is a subject of great debate.
The Overall Effectiveness of Chemotherapy
If chemotherapy was highly effective, we'd be seeing far fewer deaths from cancer. Instead, we're losing more and more people to this disease, which kills about 580,000 people a year in the United States. The general public is terrified of cancer, and rightly so.
That's because chemotherapy has a very poor track record with most solid tumors, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD, an alternative medical specialist with a big online presence.
Citing research compiled by Dr. Ralph Moss, PhD, who once worked for Memorial Sloan-Kettering center in New York City, Dr. Mercola points out that throwing toxic drugs at a sick patient only makes them sicker.
Even worse, it robs them of their best opportunity for survival - natural treaments that include cleaning up the diet, detoxing the body and taking nutrition-based cancer fighters, according to Dr. Mercola.
A growing number of survivors report this is how they beat the odds and their stories are disseminated on the Internet.
Tragically, if patients do opt for another approach, after undergoing standard treatments, it may not work because the immune system has been battered, notes Dr. Mercola.
Although Dr. Mercola is an alternative medicine specialist, the information he offers is available to conventional practitioners as well.
In December of 2004, Clinical Oncology, a widely read medical journal, published a study showing that chemotherapy increases survival time in only 2 percent of subjects.
Another study at McGill University polled a group of oncologists who treated lung cancer patients. Most (81 percent) of those who filled out the survey questions would not do chemotherapy themselves, if they had a malignancy.
It begs the question of why they would recommend it to someone else. In his online writings, Dr. Moss provides the answer. There are some kind and caring oncologists. But they are victims of the system. This is what they were trained in and this is all they know. Breaking away from the pack would also come at great personal cost.
Dr. Moss learned this firsthand during the late 1970s, when he went public with the knowledge that researchers had falsified data on the effectiveness of laetrile, a naturally derived vitamin. He was duly fired from his position as press agent at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
So What About Alternative Medicine?
The cancer industry in the United States is big business, driven largely by the pharmaceutical firms. Each year, patients and their health insurers spent about $124 billion on various tests and treatments.
There's a strong financial incentive to maintain the status quo.
One month's supply of chemotherapy can cost upwards of $10,000 a month. If this is given intravenously, the oncologist sells the drug directly to the patient, and these mark-ups account for a large percentage of his or her income.
An oncologist could also lose a professional license for pulling a patient aside and quietly telling them to visit an alternative care center. Legally, in the United States, he or she can recommend only the current standard - surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
In America it's very well documented that a number of successful non-toxic treatments have been developed, and then suppressed.
Despite this, patients who've been given no hope are beating cancer every day. All one has to do is get online to read these joyful stories of recovery.
This is why patients need a dose of honesty from their doctors, so they can make informed choices in order to have the best chance of regaining their health.
This article is not intended as medical advice. It is written only for information and the author bears no responsibility for treatment choices or possible adverse outcomes. People with health concerns should consult a medical expert.