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lternative and Complementary Therapies

Alternative Cancer Therapies

© Richard Walters

This year, one million Americans will learn they have cancer. Roughly two out of three cancer patients will die of the illness (or related therapy) within five years of diagnosis. While the news media periodically announce major cancer breakthroughs, the cures are occurring mainly in the press releases. The "war on cancer. has been a colossal failure despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on research and treatment.

The three "proven" methods of treating cancer-chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery-may actually shorten your life in many instances. Each of these treatments is invasive, has devastating side effects, and treats only symptoms. Each can cause the spread or recurrence of cancer. While these immunity-damaging approaches may at times be necessary, their successes have mostly been limited to relatively rare forms of cancer or the early stages of the disease. For most adult cancers, the orthodox therapies are virtually noncurative, though they may buy some time. For many patients, the standard therapies shorten the life span: "Most cancer patients in this country die of chemotherapy," observes Dr. Alan Levin of the University of California Medical School. "Chemotherapy does not eliminate breast, colon, or lung cancers. The fact has been documented for over a decade.... Women with breast cancer are likely to die faster with chemotherapy than without it."1

Only 2 to 3 percent of the nearly one-half million Americans diagnosed of cancer every year are being saved by chemotherapy, according to Dr. John Cairns of the Harvard University School of Public Health.2 Yet over half of all cancer patients routinely receive chemotherapy drugs, which can cripple a person's chance of survival. All chemotherapy drugs are toxic and many are carcinogenic-they can cause cancer. The overuse of chemotherapy-a $750 million-a year racket in drug sales alone-is a national scandal.

Disillusioned with standard cancer treatments-which often have devastating side effects and typically cost $30,000 or more-thousands of patients are turning to alternative or nontoxic therapies. Often called complementary, unorthodox, or nonconventional, these therapies include nutritional, herbal, metabolic, immune-enhancing, biologic, nontoxic pharmacologic, and psychological-behavioral approaches. While the alternative therapies exhibit great variation, all of them are rooted in the idea that a truly healthy body will not develop cancer. Alternative practitioners believe the cause of cancer is often found in a disorder of the immune system or a bodily imbalance that allows the tumor to develop.

Alternative therapies share certain common features. They are relatively nontoxic, unlike chemotherapy and radiation, which destroy normal cells. They aim to cleanse the body, to stimulate its natural defenses and tumor-destroying capacity. They have relatively high safety levels compared to the orthodox treatments. Many or most alternative therapies combine special diets; supplementation with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes; detoxification; oxygenation measures; immune stimulation; and psychological or spiritual regimens to promote gentle healing.

To mainstream doctors, cancer is a localized disease, to be treated in a localized manner. By cutting out the tumor, irradiating it, or flooding the body with toxic (and often carcinogenic) drugs, the orthodox physician hopes to destroy the tumor and thus save the patient. But all too often, the cancer is still present and has metastasized (spread elsewhere). The allopathic, conventional approach, for all its high-tech trappings, is based on a primitive medical philosophy: aggressively attacking an "enemy" disease. Often, the patient is devastated in the process, while the cancer and its underlying causes remain.

In contrast, the alternative healer regards cancer as a systemec disease, one that involves the whole body. In this view, the tumor is merely a symptom and the therapy aims to correct the root causes. Instead of aggressively attacking the tumor, many alternative therapies focus on rebuilding the body's natural immunity and strengthening its inherent ability to destroy cancer cells. A number of alternative therapies also include natural measures to directly attack and destroy the tumor, whether by herbs, enzymes, or other means.

Many cancer patients who were pronounced "terminal" or "hopeless" by their orthodox doctors went on to use alternative therapies, recovered fully, and are alive and well five, ten, twenty, or more years after their fatal diagnoses. Other patients who follow alternative protocols experience prolonged survival times and relief from pain and suffering. Not everyone does well on alternative cancer therapies; many die. There are no "magic bullets," no guarantees. Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics on the results of alternative treatment. Some of the therapies work some of the time for some people.

The medical establishment ignores the existence of these cancer survivors or contemptuously dismisses them as "anecdotal evidence." Another establishment trick is to claim that people who got well through alternative therapies somehow magically recovered due to prior treatment-even if the toxic chemotherapy or immunity-destroying radiation that had been administered months or years earlier was of absolutely no benefit in slowing a rapidly advancing or metastasized malignancy.

Another favorite establishment ploy is to say that cancer patients who were cured through alternative therapies simply underwent "spontaneous remissions." This is medical lingo for "unexplained recovery," a fig leaf to cloak doctors' ignorance of what happened. Actually, there is no such process as spontaneous remission, as many doctors acknowledge. There must always be a cause or mechanism for the seemingly spontaneous tumor regression.3 The most comprehensive study ever undertaken on the spontaneous remission of advanced cancers turned up a paltry total of 176 such cases in the world medical literature from 1900 to 1965. This means the odds of a doctor meeting with several spontaneous remissions in one lifetime are virtually zero.4 Yet there are alternative doctors who have hundreds of so-called spontaneous remissions of advanced cancer to their credit.

Reviewing 200 cases of so-called spontaneous regression of cancer, Canadian professor Harold Foster, Ph.D., found in 1988 that the great majority of these people (88 percent) had made major dietary changes-usually switching to a strictly vegetarian diet and avoiding white flour, sugar, and canned or frozen foods-before their dramatic tumor regression or complete remission occurred.5 Most of these patients also used vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements as well as detoxification measures. These are all prominent features of several of the alternative cancer therapies discussed in this book.

Cancer is a biologic puzzle. There is no unanimous agreement on what makes cells grow abnormally, in endless, uncontrolled multiplication. There could be many different valid ways to treat cancer. According to Michael Evers, executive director of Project CURE, "There are serious, scientifically based approaches to cancer which do not happen to fit the mainstream model. We're not talking about quackery or snake-oil medicine here." A patient advocacy group, Project CURE supports "a pluralistic medical system" that would make nontoxic cancer therapies available to patients as part of standard medical practice. Most Americans, it seems, endorse this goal. An Associated Press-Media General national poll in September 1985 revealed that half of all Americans believe alternative cancer clinics should be allowed to operate in the United States-even if the treatments they offer are opposed by the orthodox medical establishment. Over half of the respondents said they would seek such treatment themselves if they were diagnosed with cancer.

Despite the public's support and growing interest in nontoxic, noninvasive alternative approaches, the medical establishment has waged a fierce campaign against such therapies, labeling them quackery. Treatment centers have been padlocked. Doctors who prescribe nutrition or herbs have been thrown in jail. Responsible, caring physicians who verbally support or practice alternative therapies have been fired, demoted, or ostracized or have had their medical licenses revoked. While official medicine suppresses or thwarts promising alternatives, it pours billions of dollars into narrow research supporting chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery as the major weapons in the "war on cancer." That war has been a total failure in slowing the death rate. The overall age-adjusted cancer death rate has risen by 5 percent since the war against cancer began.

"Everyone should know that the 'war on cancer' is largely a fraud," wrote Dr. Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize winner. Another Nobel winner, Dr. James Watson, codiscoverer of the DNA double helix, put the matter more bluntly. Watson served for two years on the National Cancer Advisory Board. Asked in 1975 what he thought of the National Cancer Program, he promptly replied, "It's a bunch of shit."6 Death rates for the most common cancers-cancers of the lung, colon, breast, prostate, pancreas, and ovary-have either stayed the same or increased during the past fifty years. As noted in the September 22, 1986, issue of Business Week, "Surgery, radiation, and highly toxic drugs all tend to fail for a stunningly simple reason: a tumor the size of your thumb has one billion malignant cells in it. Even if a treatment gets 99.9% of them, a million remain to take root all over again."

You may live longer by having no conventional treatment at all. That was the conclusion of the late Dr. Hardin Jones, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley. After carefully analyzing the cancer survival statistics for twenty-five years, Jones told an American Cancer Society meeting in 1969 that untreated patients do not die sooner than patients receiving orthodox treatment-and in many cases they live longer.7 Three studies by other researchers support this negative assessment, which has never been refuted.

Myths Surrounding Alternative Cancer Therapies
Many myths and misconceptions surround alternative cancer therapies. What follows is an attempt to clarify the most common.

Myth #1: All alternative cancer therapies are worthless.

This is the official position of the $80 billion-a-year "cancer industry," which has a vested stake in the orthodox therapies. But the facts tell a very different story. Patients with advanced, metastasized cancers, given up as medically incurable by their conventional doctors, have reversed their illnesses using alternative therapies and are today completely cancer-free. Many more patients on nontoxic therapies have at least been able to keep their cancers under control and lead active, productive lives. Some alternative physicians have amassed clinical evidence, including studies and carefully documented case histories, to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their methods. This evidence is routinely rejected by the medical orthodoxy on the grounds that it does not meet certain criteria, such as double-blind controlled trials (in which half the patients do not receive the treatment in question).

These cures do not mean that all of the nonconventional methods work. Some may by ineffective or fraudulent. "Most alternative therapies are almost totally useless--just like the conventional therapies," says Patrick McGrady,Jr., founder of CANHELP.

Estimates of success rates with alternative therapies vary widely. What works for one patient or type of cancer may fail with another patient having the same or a different malignancy. Holistic health advocate Gary Null, who spent years investigating alternative clinics and interviewing patients, claims that success rates have ranged "from 2 to 20 percent" in cases of terminal cancer. Some alternative practitioners exaggerate their results, claiming five-year remission rates of 60 percent or more. Patrick McGrady is skeptical of all such claims. "It would be good, if it were true."

"My subjective impression," says Ralph Moss, publisher of The Cancer Chronicles newsletter, "is a baseline 4 to 5 percent five-year remission rate in all of the alternative clinics. Then the figure goes up with less severe cases. If I found a 20 percent rate of five-year remission, that would be really exciting." But Moss feels that this posited success rate is highly significant. "After all, these therapies are not supposed to cure anybody, according to orthodox medicine." He points out that the chance for recovery in many patients has been undercut by prior radiation and chemotherapy, both of which can severely damage the body's immune response and normal functioning.

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