Cancer treatments: traditional or not?

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There seems to be a battle between those who passionately believe in traditional (evidence based) medical treatment and those who believe in non traditional (less evidence and sometimes no science-based) treatments.  Usually people are polarized one way or the other.  I would love to get a nice dialogue with folks who support one or the other and what the reasons are.  So let me start off by getting some of the terms spelled out and trying to categorize various types of treatments.

Pharmaceutical versus naturaceuticals:  The former is chemical based products designed and manufactured by pharmaceutical companies while the later is non-chemical based natural products (of course they can be chemical in principal, but not made synthetically) or extracts from natural products (such as seaweed, plants, oils, etc.). .

Traditional versus non-traditional (alternative medicine).  This is the western defined definition…traditional refers to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy while non traditional refers to things outside of this.  Traditional methods requires clinicians while non traditional may not.  Examples of non traditional treatment include vitamin C therapy, coffee enema, vegetable soups, etc.

Western versus Eastern medicine:  This usually refers to drugs and treatments designed to be used in modern health care and include drugs dispensed by trained cancer doctors while the later refers to things such as traditional chinese medicine, indian healing and traditional indian herbs, etc.  These might be dispensed by trained TCM practitioners but often given by parents and relatives of patients.  Some of these have many years of experience behind them but often have limited scientific studies behind them.

There are many other classes of treatment that do not have such nice and neat categories.  For example, I have a colleague who promotes holistic healing using energy (eg. from ones own self or from other sources).  Others believe that psychotherapy can help and some fo the techniques used include hypnosis.  Others belive that specific diets can starve cancer cells while normal cells grow well.  I have another colleague who calls himself Doc (not to be confused with Dr.) who uses a technique that analyzes hair samples and helps to identify (again using some interesting energy source) the cancer a person has but more importantly the source of the illness (e.g he belive that cancer is a result of other imbalances of the body).  He then embarks on a treatment plant (diet and natural products and alignment techniques) that corrects the underlying deficiency in the body that cures the patient.  There are many other types of proposed therapies and this only scratches the surface.  I would love to hear from you…the reader as to any treatments that you know about, swear works, or have suspicion about.

Let me finish by discussing some things that people tend to criticise about these types of therapies.  First of all major criticisms about modern therapies such as pharmaceutical based drugs and treatments include the following: 1) They are too expensive, 2) They don’t work- well they only target the cancer cell but not the underlying conditions that made the cancer grow in the first place, 3) They are not natural and thus inherently toxic, 4) Drug companies are in cahoots with Doctors and hospitals to milk the customer (the cancer patient) for as much money as possible so these companies can get larger and richer and 5) These companies spend so much on making these drugs (hundreds of millions) that many of these drugs can’t fail and the investment is too big and thus the claims for their effectiveness are exaggerated.  Common criticisms of other therapies include: 1) They are not tested well and have almost no scientific or clinical evidence for efficacy, 2) People who say they work base their assumptions on the one or two people who claim that they work but ignore the hundreds of people who they don’t know who had witnessed no recovery using these methods, 3) The few people who say these methods work could have gotten better for reasons we don’t know, 4) Some of the natural products that people take can actually be toxic in large amounts (especially for the liver or kidney), 5) Like pharmaceutical companies, companies that sell these so-called natural products for cancer treatment are also very biased, hide negative data, and try to sell inexpensive natural products at high prices to make a profit and have no real care for the patient. 

Despite how you feel there are likely to be real pros and cons for any type of treatments that you use if you have cancer.  No one is likely to be able to provide you with the miracle cure.  The comfort level and the background fo the patient is always going to play an important role and education can never hurt.  So, please do comment on this and let me know what you think!  Would love to see an active discussion going?  What do you favor or disfavor and why?  Can you challenge the status quo?  Do you have stories to share of how you may have changed your views about treatments?

Thanks for reading….. Dr. C

Cancer made Simple





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