Cancer history and where we are today

The last several blog entries have been largely about the historical journey of cancer.  Here I want to suggest how the historical state of affairs in medicine and cancer treatments have influenced where we are today, but also might encourage us to think that we are not as bad off as many (including me) tend to suggest at times in terms of cancer  treatment.

Historically, it is quite clear that medical improvements moved slowly.  We were in the dark ages for a long long period if time due to our over reliance on established dogma, our own belief systems, and fear.  Medicine and the seeking of truth behind medicine was held back for so long that we really did not have much to look forward to when we came across a major illness like cancer.  Now, major illnesses are still scary and fraught with difficulty, but we do look forward and are rightfully hopeful that we may be cured or at least stall the major illness in question.  Many, but not all cancers are treatable.  Many, but not all patients with cancer do get well again.  Many, but not all patients with cancer are ‘cured’ and live happy (we hope) and healthy (again we hope) lives. 

Now, we are at a new stage of our medical development.  No longer are good survival rates or even average survival rates acceptable.  In the past poor survival rates we accepted as normal.  We have now decided that NO patient should ever die of cancer.  This has led us allowed the alternative medical profession to see an upswing or a surge interest these days.  Patients are begging for additional avenues for potential treatments.  Now, when faced with a difficult cancer or when faced with advanced stage cancer, etc., patients are very heightened to learn more about what we can do in addition to or in replacement of the western medical treatments.  They DO NOT want to learn that their advanced cancer stage only poses a 10-20% survival rate. Many now wish to seek nuticeuticals and alternative medicines that may increase their survival rates.

Alternative medicines, nutritional, naturopathies, and other non-traditional medicines seem to fill the void.  They seem to be ideal in meeting the needs of patients.  In fact, natural remedies have always played roles in treatment.  But, as medical developments raced ahead and provided TRUE increases in survival benefits to patients with cancer and other chronic diseases, less emphasis was placed on them.  Scientific and national governance institutes shut out most forms of natural treatment and even made sure that traditional medical learning programs did not receive accreditation or were not medically approved.  This was fine when Western medicine was increasing in value…more and more people were living after surgery and other medical treatments.  No need for alternative medicine it was thought.  Why bother?

Things have changed…we have reached a bottleneck.  Now, it seems for many cancers and other chronic diseases….we are no longer increasing the survival rates of many of the more severe patients.  Medicines and treatment at our disposal work for many but are still not effective for others.  Newer additional medications and advancements in surgical techniques such as robotics, etc. are not proving to do much for these more severe chronic diseases.  We are still losing many late stage patients to cancer year after year.  So, will natural medicines, will alternative medical professionals, will supplements and others fill in the gap?  Can they achieve what traditional western based medicine has not?  Can they cure cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc?  I just don’t know the answer to that. 

There is a mix of data out there.  There is TONS of anecdotal evidence but very few hard facts on how well these alternative forms of therapy work.  The issue I have always felt is that if they don’t do any harm…then why not allow them and encourage them in patients who have little other treatment options.  Giving people hope (realistic hope) and managing their expectations while providing them with alternative therapies, may not be a bad idea.  However, asking patients to take supplement blindly from folks who are selling them with little to no medical/scientific qualifications is quite scary.  Allowing the commercial aspects of marketing and sales of these alternative products with little to no medical or ethical oversight might prove to be a huge risk. 

What do we need to do.  1) Some scientific real hard data needs to be presented and accepted before many of these supplements and treatments are allowed.  The people who are selling them must separate themselves from the people who are testing them as to create a fair and open process.  2) The people who are selling and/or marketing these natural drugs and treatments MUST have some qualifications before doing so.  They must have some training.  They should not be sales folks with no scientific/medical instructions selling these products to people and telling them the benefits to their health.  3) Their must be some kind of oversight to these drugs and treatments.  Someone must look into the products to make sure that they contain what they say they do, to make sure that they are safe, and to oversee that they indeed do what they are intended to do.  Alternative medical practitioners should also have an accreditation body…someone out there must assess them to make sure they have the right training and will provide no harm to patients. 

All of these do not mean that the alternative medical community and the natural products that go along with them need the same degree of oversight that synthetic drugs and surgery etc. demand. No, we do not need a FDA to oversee these.  But, we need some kind of safely and ethics board to oversee these.  We CAN NOT be hurting patients who area already sick by giving them products that have never been tested etc.  We CAN NOT give patients false hope and tell them they this natural agent will cure them of their cancer if there is NO evidence of that. 

So, in conclusion…medical history has helped guide the current state of affairs.  Patients want more….they want to live longer and healthier.  They now want more than traditional western based medication in many cases.  There are a lot fo potentially wonderful natural products out there.  These may fill the gaps.  However, they need to be regulated and they need to be studied.

Thank you…please see the Cancer Made Simple website for more information.

Dr. C

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2 thoughts on “Cancer history and where we are today

  1. While i’m not sure about the regulation of alternative medicines in other countries, the situation here in Singapore at least for traditional chinese medicine (TCM) is that, there is a medical regulator body set up by the Ministry of Health as well as a Chinese Physicians Association to oversee the community. There is also proper registration and monitoring of the certified practitioners. The move to regulate TCM stems from a large Chinese population in Singapore of which, many turn to the practice for ailments big and small. As for the efficacy of the treatment itself, I can only say that at this stage it is still anecdotal although some small bio-tech start-ups here are beginning to carry out proper animal studies to look into the scientific basis of TCM.

    • Thanks for that comment. I should say that I was not thinking about TCM when I wrote this post. The alternative medical treatment and supplments I was referring to do not include TCM. In fact, as TCM has been fairly well studied and is well regulated in many countries, other alternative medicines might want to use that model in terms of regulation and the kinds of studies that are needed. I agree, the ‘proof of efficacy’, despite it’s use for thousands of years, might still be lacking, but it’s safely profiles has been looked it. It is indeed well studied and well regarded in asian communities across the world!

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