Do conventional cancer treatments work?
These include ovarian cancer, some colon cancer, small cell lung cancer, etc. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may shrink tumors, when that is a medical necessity, and may succeed in relieving pain (such as from bone metastases). For a limited number of types of cancer, the combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have sometimes made a substantial difference in the outcome of treatment.
TYPE OF CANCER CURE RATE*
*Percent long-term disease-free survival. Source: Cecil's Textbook of Medicine (1988)
In many other cases, chemotherapy (or radiation therapy) is more of a gamble than a proven therapy.
A Heidelberg, Germany cancer biostatistician who spent 10 years as a statistician in clinical oncology, Dr. Ulrich Abel, published in 1990 a groundbreaking book, "Chemotherapy of Advanced Epithelial Cancer", which summarizes all the available direct evidence from randomized studies as to whether chemotherapy extends survival. By "epithelial" Abel means the most common forms of adenocarcinoma-- lung, breast, prostate, colon, etc. These account for at least 80 percent of cancer deaths in advanced industrial countries.
Small-cell lung cancer "is the only carcinoma for which good direct evidence of a survival improvement by chemotherapy exists." But this improvement amounted to a matter of three months! For non-small cell lung cancer there was also some "weak indications" of small benefit.
Effectiveness of chemotherapy for the majority of cancers
For other kinds of chemotherapy, the news is far less promising:
Disillusionment with chemotherapy is mounting within the medical profession. In a lecture, the doyen of French oncologists, Lucien Israel, MD, once said, "One mustn't count blindly on chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells. These sick cells, when they are not eradicated by drugs, can become more and more aggressive and more and more difficult to treat" (quoted in "La Presse" of Montréal,10/26/95).
Dr. Israel has spent nearly 60 years in the cancer field. At one time he was an ardent enthusiast for chemical treatments but has gradually realized that a large number of cancers simply develop a resistance to such drugs. And such resistance is attributable to the toxic stress generated by the treatment itself.
There is simply no evidence for the vast majority of cancers that treatment with these drugs exerts any positive influence on survival or quality of life in patients with advanced disease. The almost dogmatic belief in the efficacy of chemotherapy is usually based on false conclusions from inappropriate data.
The medical establishment ascribes the alleged historical increase in 5-year survival rates over the last few decades to the beneficial effects of chemotherapy. But this is erroneous thinking. Equating cure with 5-year-survival is misleading.
Some of the reasons 5-year survival rates might be better today than years ago include:
It is quite interesting to note that studies have shown that many oncologists would not take chemotherapy themselves if they had cancer.
Effects of chemotherapy drugs
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Most of the 40 or so chemotherapeutic agents cause baldness by producing a weakened hair shaft that breaks off at the scalp. Hair may take years to return to normal.
Nausea and vomiting are common. Such nausea can lead to weakness, weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Other GI effects are infections of the mucous lining, lips, tongue and mouth. Abdominal colic, constipation, diarrhea are all common. Candida (thrush) is found in 13% of patients. Doxorubicin causes esophagus inflammation in 50%.
Toxic drugs leaking from a needle causes skin necrosis. Severe damage to nerves, tendons and muscle can follow. Surgeons treat this by excising the skin, followed by grafts to repair the damage. Radiation recall: skin, trying to heal from radiation burns, reddens and peels again; blisters and oozing follow. 5-FU can even make people burn from normal sunlight.
Busulfan and other drugs cause discoloration of the skin, weakness, inability to eat and weight loss. Doxorubicin causes darkening of fingers and toes. Bleomycin results in weird pigmentation of the trunk. Thiotepa leads to whitening of the eyelids, nail damage, brittleness, loosening and even loss of nail plates.
Most anti-cancer drugs also cause second cancers, especially of the GI tract, ovaries, and lungs. These are nearly impossible to treat. Tumors continue to develop for years. In one study, 17% of survivors developed unrelated cancer up to 15 years later.
Immune system damage is almost universal. The whole panoply of blood diseases is seen: thrombocytopenia with its loss of white blood cells which guard against infection; severe bone marrow hypoplasia; inability to synthesize fibrinogen; abnormally long bleeding time; granulocytopenia. Resulting infections can be treated with antibiotics, but these in turn can bring their own set of side effects.
Heart damage can occur weeks, months or years after treatment, signalled by rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, distended neck veins, swollen ankles, an enlarged liver and heart. Up to 30% of high-dose Doxorubicin recipients develop congestive heart failure.
Over 40% of patients experience mouth ulcers, pain and bleeding, which can make eating a torture. Other problems: candida, herpes and viral infections, dry mouth, drooling, painful swallowing. Loss of sensation, muscle pain, weakness and changes in senses and motor skills are common. Methotrexate causes stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, fever and lethargy for up to 72 hours. Paralysis, paraplegia and death have also occurred. Vinblastine and vincristine cause double vision, loss of bladder control, impotence, and paralysis of the bowel wall.
Ear damage and hearing loss are associated with cis-platin, which is being used against testicular, ovarian, cervical, head and neck cancers.
Reproductive organs can be profoundly damaged, resulting in sterility.
Given these almost uniformly bad results, where did the idea originate that chemotherapy is of such benefit in cancer? One reason is because toxic drugs often do effect a response. i.e., a partial or complete shrinkage of the tumor. But contrary to popular opinion, this reduction of tumor mass does not prolong expected survival. Sometimes, in fact, the cancer returns more aggressively than before because killing off 99% of a mass fosters the growth of resistant cell lines.
Chemotherapy came out of World War II mustard gas experiments and it remains poison. The AMA routinely condemns natural cancer treatments as quackery. But isn't it time that it dropped its quackbusting crusade and replaced it with an open-minded investigation of such methods?
The drug industry controls the cancer field, through their domination of virtually every single cancer research and treatment institution. Thousands of top cancer researchers around the world are on the payroll of a dozen drug companies, and these same drug company executives sit on the Boards of major cancer centers. They also dominate the major oncology organizations. Patients need to know about the dirty politics of the cancer industry!
Drug companies offer doctors pay-offs for enrolling patients in clinical trials.
Mergers are taking place between giant pharmaceutical companies. Enormous monopolies are being formed which will further restrict freedom of choice for patients.
To date, not a single non-toxic cancer drug has ever been approved by the FDA. If we're serious about curing cancer, we have got to get greed for profits out of the research process!Studies have shown that physicians spend an average of 1.3 minutes answering their patients' questions. If you think there has got to be a better way to evaluate your options, you are right!
Remember: your only loyalty should be to yourself and your healing process. Your #1 job is to figure out which treatment approaches are the best ones for you, no matter which "camp" they come from. This is what "integrative" cancer treatment is all about. Good treatments from every medical tradition should be used together to form the most effective cancer battle plan possible. Good treatments should be patient-centered, evidence-based, as non-toxic as possible, and humane.
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