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 Therapies: Alternative/Complementary Cancer Therapies 
Richard Walters ©

"A number of the scientists on the ACS Unproven Methods list were undoubtedly persons of genius," observes science writer Robert Houston.11 ~ Among the examples he cites is Max Gerson, M.D., whose dietary treatment of cancer anticipated many current research trends. Gerson was hailed by Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who wrote, "I see in him one of the most eminent medical geniuses in the history of medicine."

These practitioners hardly fit the image of snake-oil salesmen.

Myth #3: Patients who seek alternative therapies are driven by desperation. They're ignorant, gullible or both.

Contrary to the stereotype, recent studies have shown that alternative cancer therapies are more popular among affluent, well-educated patients-and that some conventional physicians are surprisingly supportive of them. "The stereotype of the less-educated, poor person succumbing to the sideshow lures of the quack has been exploded," Dr. LaMar McGinnis told a San Francisco conference organized by the American Cancer Society in 1990. McGinnis, ax-chairman of the ACS Committee on Unproven Methods and no friend of alternative treatment, based his remarks on an unpublished ACS study of 5,047 patients.

"Many patients receiving alternate care do not conform to the traditional stereotype of poorly educated, terminally ill patients who have exhausted conventional treatment," wrote Barrie Cassileth in her landmark 1984 study (see Myth #2). She found that cancer patients on alternative therapies were significantly better educated than were patients on conventional treatment only. Many were attracted to therapeutic alternatives emphasizing personal responsibility and nutrition and moving away from what the patients viewed as deficiencies of orthodox medical care. Most of the patients paid less than $1,000 for the first year of alternative treatment. Even taking into account inflation and sharp variations in fees, these costs are modest compared to the expenses of $2,500 per day that the medical establishment demands for its invasive procedures. Cassileth also found that alternative therapy was actually approved by patients' primary physicians 30 percent of the time.

Myth #4: Alternative cancer therapies are "unproven, " therefore untested and unscientific.

The American Cancer Society has seventy-two alternative cancer therapies on its Unproven Methods list. In his revealing analysis of the ACS blacklist, Ralph Moss notes that for 44 percent of these condemned therapies, no investigation at all had been carried out by the ACS or any other agency. For another 11 percent, the investigations had actually yielded positive results. Inconclusive findings were reported for 16 percent. And for the remaining 29 percent, the ACS judges had determined the methods in question to be ineffective, yet, as Moss points out, "Virtually all of the ACS judges are orthodox physicians with a vested interest in the system. In making their assessments, they rely on second- or third-hand reports like magazine articles and foreign medical associations."

Hyperthermia, or heat therapy-once branded as a "worthless remedy" and "quackery" by the ACS-was removed years later from the Unproven Methods list. Today, hyperthermia is in trial use at major medical centers; it has been hailed by some oncologists as the fifth modality in cancer treatment after surgery, radiation, drugs, and immunotherapy. This is the same method that the ACS banished into limbo in 1967.

(Excerpted from Options: The Alternative Cancer Therapy Book ISBN: 0895295105)
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