The Cancer Revolution
On Wednesday, December 26, 1990, the United Press International news wire carried the following headline:
CANCER NOW LEADING KILLER OF MIDDLE-AGED
The article reported that for people aged thirty-five to sixty-four cancer had overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death. (2)
Cancer kills more women in the United States than any other illness, and it is estimated that by the year 2000 cancer will be the leading cause of death among all Americans. (7) The aging of the American population cannot be used as an excuse to explain the steady increase in cancer deaths. A 1991 study disclosed that "The overall rate of cancer among U.S. children is mounting steadily." (8) This is happening despite spending billions of dollars in the "war on cancer" that was launched in December 1971 by then president Richard Nixon.
Traditional cancer therapy is like a war. The tumor is the enemy. The patient's body is the battleground. The weapons used to attack are chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. In alternative approaches cancer is seen as originating in problems with metabolism, biochemistry, and the immune system, which are making the tumor. Many practitioners in the field of alternative cancer therapy say, "The tumor is not the cancer. The tumor is only a symptom of the cancer."
The authors of a University of Pennsylvania study summed up the reasons for turning to alternative or unconventional cancer therapies very clearly:
As patients and the public have become increasingly educated, dissatisfaction with conventional care for cancer has grown. The toxic effects of chemotherapy, the absence of new and markedly improved treatments despite decades of effort, and the lack of substantive improvement in rates of cure for the major cancers all contribute to the dissatisfaction. (3)
As frustration with conventional therapies increases, interest in alternative treatments for cancer is growing steadily, even within the traditional medical community. In 1987 the United States Congress directed its highly respected research arm, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), to investigate alternative cancer therapies and to produce a report. (6) Congress requested this study in response to political pressure from growing numbers of cancer patients who are outraged because they feel they are being denied access to potentially life-saving therapies.
The OTA report, Unconventional Cancer Treatments, recommended that funds be made available to study alternative therapies, based on indications that many of them may be beneficial. This recommendation eventually resulted in the formation of the Office of Alternative Medicine, which is currently determining which therapies to research. These startling developments are evidence of the growing influence of the revolution in cancer care, and the politics behind them will be presented in the next chapter.
There is an international revolution in cancer therapy as well. The Federal Science Ministry in Germany found that seven out of ten general practitioners in Germany use some form of alternative medicine as part of their practice. In 1984 the ministry set up a research program to investigate alternative treatments for cancer. (9)
In Israel the Minister of Health appointed a commission to evaluate alternative health therapies. (4) The main thrust of the testimony to the committee was that freedom of choice should extend to selecting medical treatment and that as long as no bodily injury is caused, it is not necessary to restrict the practice of unconventional medicine.
These study groups and commissions are approaching alternative or unconventional medicine with an eye to finding out what it has to offer. Unfortunately, the primary official response to alternative therapies in the U.S. has been condemnation and persecution. However, there is a genuine revolution under way in cancer therapy and in attitudes toward health and medicine in general.
Treating the Whole Person
Instead of focusing exclusively on the tumor, alternative therapies offer a broad range of approaches: boosting the patient's immune system, detoxifying the body, providing optimum nutritional support, increasing healthy oxidative cellular metabolism, minimizing destructive free-radical damage, and working with the mental and emotional aspects of the disease.
Cancer is not a localized condition. If a woman has breast cancer, it is her whole body that is involved, not only her breast. To heal cancer, the whole body needs to be healed, not just the place where the tumor is located.
There is also an emotional and psychological aspect to every physical disease. Just treating the physical body really ignores a powerful ally, the mind. The goal of cancer therapy should be more than attacking and killing the tumor. It should be to make the patient healthy by using every possible means to heal both the body and the mind.
The decision to turn to alternative treatments is made by thousands of patients each year. Often these people seek out alternative cancer therapy only after traditional cancer therapy has failed and they have been told that they have only a few weeks to live. Utilizing alternative therapies, many of these patients improve, and live from two to five years longer, with a reasonably good quality of life. Although this can't be viewed as long-term remission, several years of rewarding life is a definite improvement over the last few weeks or months of misery that many patients experience from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Facing the Fear
As hospital administrator at Hospital Santa Monica, it is my responsibility to interview and orient new patients. After taking a patient's medical history, I begin to explain our various alternative therapies. We want people to know what they are taking and how it works.
In my interviews the first issue that most patients raise is their fear. The social attitude toward cancer often triggers overwhelming negative emotions once a patient hears the doctor pronounce that dreaded word...CANCER.
When dealing with fears about cancer, I draw a parallel to cardiovascular disease. Years ago, when people had a heart attack, they experienced a fear of death similar to that which is associated with the diagnosis of cancer today.
Now we know that a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease is not a death sentence. Medications and changes in diet and exercise habits can create a healthier body and reverse cardiovascular disease, extending both the quality and length of life.
I tell patients that much the same situation exists with cancer. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Through a therapeutic regime, including an intensive program of detoxification, enhancement of the immune system, nutritional support, and counseling, patients can encourage their bodies to heal and can regain the joy of living.
Most cancer patients want to get well, but what many of them mean by getting well is "Make me the way I was before I got sick." But life-style factors such as smoking, poor diet, exposure to radiation and poisons, lack of exercise, and negative thinking are factors that cause or promote cancer. Most patients who are successful in healing cancer make significant changes in their life-style. In fact, healing requires life-style changes. If we attack the tumor without improving the underlying system, the body will usually make more tumors.
For some patients a health crisis like cancer is the necessary stimulus that forces them to learn about themselves and discover how to live a healthier, happier life.
Quality of Life
Often the most immediate problem for cancer patients is the fact that the traditional medical treatments they are receiving make them so sick they can hardly face the next day. They wonder if extending life is worthwhile if they are going to feel so terrible during the time they have left.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, which are sometimes called the cut, burn, and poison therapies, can have devastating side effects. In fact, radiation and most types of chemotherapy can actually cause secondary cancers.
A common saying among practitioners and patients of alternative therapies is "More people die from chemotherapy than die from cancer." This is not to say that surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy do not have their appropriate applications in some types of cancers.
Patients want to know if alternative approaches are any better. Almost all the substances used in alternative cancer therapies occur naturally as part of the immune system of either humans, plants, or animals. They also tend to be primarily nontoxic and without side effects. The health-supportive role of alternative cancer therapies is a major departure from the side effects that accompany most orthodox treatments. Alternative therapies like the ones offered at Hospital Santa Monica and other similar facilities are health oriented and health building.
The Cancer "Cure"
Patients have another question that gets to the heart of the matter: "Can you cure me?" I respond by discussing the real meaning of the word cure. Even if the patient has no sign of cancer, it is incorrect to claim a cure, because there is always the possibility of a recurrence. It is more appropriate to use the words prevention and remission. We want to increase patient health so that the body is strong enough to prevent any recurrences.
By concentrating on attacking disease, we fail to place proper emphasis on prevention and healthy living. Currently in the United States 14 percent of the GNP is spent on health care, and a significant percentage of that money is spent in the last thirty days of life in a desperate, but futile, attempt to prolong life.
What Is Alternative Cancer Therapy?
Alternative cancer therapy is a broad term that covers many different therapeutic approaches. In the United States the term refers to any cancer treatment that is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some of the practitioners offering alternative therapies are medical doctors, while others are not. Often treatment is delivered in a clinical setting. A few of these clinics are located in the United States, but most are in Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, and various countries in Europe.
Some clinics have a specific focus and emphasize the therapy they are famous for. Other clinics use a multidimensional approach, with a wide variety of alternative therapies, such as detoxification, immune-system enhancement, nutritional support, healthy diets, and bio-magnetic therapy, along with such biological substances as hydrogen peroxide, ozone, laetrile, shark cartilage, and many others, which are covered in this book.
Testing and Documenting Alternative Therapies
The main criticism that the medical establishment has of alternative cancer treatments is a lack of traditional scientific testing and documentation. One reason for the absence of mainstream research on alternatives is that the funding institutions that dole out the money for cancer research do not support research into alternative cancer therapies.
This situation creates a double bind for alternative therapies. They are criticized for not having adequate research to document their effectiveness, yet funding is not made available for studies.
Drug companies, which fund many of the studies for new drugs, have little interest in pursuing alternative treatments, since they are generally inexpensive and cannot be patented. For example, there is no money to be made from spending millions of dollars on research to show that vitamin C helps to fight cancer, since anyone can buy the substance at the corner drugstore.
Treatments like psychotherapy, visualization, and support groups receive little funding for research because they are not drugs, and the traditional medical community tends to be suspicious of anything that identifies a mental aspect to a disease.
The Quest for the Magic Bullet
Another reason for the lack of research into alternative cancer therapies is that many are offered as part of an integrated program. For example, the National Cancer Institute's laetrile study produced negative results. However, proponents of laetrile point out that the NCI study ignored diet, nutritional supplements, and other substances that are synergistically involved in producing laetrile's positive effects. (5)
Cancer, like heart disease, is a multidimensional disease. It is nearly impossible to study the effects of diet, therapeutic agents, and other influences in the traditional research framework. Investigating several variables calls for dozens of experiments and impossible amounts of research funding.
The traditional experimental approach calls for checking one substance at a time, and this leads to a search for a "magic bullet" to cure cancer. However, the very nature of this traditional research method ignores the multidimensional nature of the disease. What we need is new ways to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative cancer therapies.
In 1987 I helped to conduct a study at the Gerson Institute, which was designed to document and verify the long-term survival of patients following the Gerson therapy. This study was a best-case review, which is referenced in the OTA report to Congress with the suggestion that best-case studies might be a way of broadening the information base for unconventional cancer treatments.
This book's focus on alternative cancer therapies is not meant to imply a rejection of traditional chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Alternative therapies can be used alone, but frequently the best approach is to use them in conjunction with traditional therapies.
Robert Atkins, M.D., first became famous for his book Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution. He began his career as a traditional medical practitioner, but his practice now draws on both orthodox medicine and alternative medicine in a blend that he calls complementary medicine.
In his new book, Dr. Atkins' Health Revolution, he says, "I can never go back to practicing orthodox medicine. I know it is too limited; there are too many areas it cannot enter. There are too many people it cannot help. Orthodox medicine is not to be discarded; it is simply to be added to. Once a physician knows what the additions can do, his ethics will not allow him to withhold them." (1)
Dr. Atkins treats cancer with "kitchen sink complementarism," which means using everything that he can think of in the way of health enhancers, immune stimulants, and enabling agents. He states, "The more alternative treatments I and my team of doctors had to draw on, the more were the successes of our patients." (1) But it isn't possible to make intelligent choices in cancer therapy without having the best available information on all approaches -- including alternative therapies.
The Revolution in Cancer Therapy
This book describes the various ways alternative therapies are used, the theoretical explanations of their effect on cancer, and the available evidence on their effectiveness. These "treatment portraits" contain descriptive information, theoretical discussions, test reports, and case histories of exceptional patients. However, this is not the same as scientific double-blind research studies.
Practitioners offering alternative cancer therapies generally oppose double-blind studies because they regard it as immoral to give half the patients inactive sugar pills or distilled water injections when these people are in desperate need of real help.
Many people both outside and within the cancer industry are now admitting that the war on cancer has turned into what former FDA administrator Donald Kennedy called "a medical Vietnam," with very little progress to show for all the money and effort expended. (5) Now over half a million people die from cancer every year. That means that one person dies of cancer every sixty-four seconds, and over 1,350 people die each day. Even though the money and the people who control the cancer industry would like to convince the public to believe otherwise, many think these statistics indicate that the current methods of treating cancer have failed.
The current crisis in cancer therapy is crying out for new solutions. Many people feel that some of those new solutions are already available, and they are currently labeled as the alternative or unconventional cancer therapies.
Cancer patients have formed support groups and political action groups in an effort to fight for the availability of these alternative cancer therapies in the United States. There is a call for new directions and new solutions in cancer therapy and treatment.
We do not need new versions of what has come before. We have spent thirty years looking for better chemotherapeutic drugs; stronger, more focused radiation; and better surgical techniques. We do not need more of the same, or even better of the same. What we need is bold new ideas and directions.
More and more people are coming to believe that banning the nontoxic alternative cancer therapies in this country is a violation of freedom of choice, and that these nontoxic treatments should be readily available as an option to doctors and cancer patients. Some of the alternative cancer therapies are now legally available from foreign mail-order companies. It is the express purpose of this book to publicize these alternative therapies, and to make known the fact that they can be used legally, even if they have to be ordered from abroad.
Each chapter will explore the background of a particular alternative cancer therapy. The originators of these therapies are dedicated healers who often have fascinating personalities and dramatic lives. The background section is followed by a review of relevant clinical studies and case histories. Some alternative therapies have been scientifically evaluated more thoroughly than others. Each chapter will then conclude with a review of side effects and information on current dosage and administration practices. I sincerely hope that the information on alternative cancer therapies contained here will provide hope for patients as they search for new directions and solutions to the cancer crisis.
This book is designed to give the reader information about current alternative practices and therapies for cancer. It does not recommend any specific therapy, and the information contained herein should not be construed as such a recommendation. Any person desiring to pursue an alternative course of therapy for cancer or any disease should do so only under the care and supervision of a competent physician.
Copyright © 1994 by Ross Pelton, R. Ph., Ph.D.