The most patients across the country, upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer, begin whatever set of surgery/chemo/radiation that is recommended by their oncology team. A significant majority of those patients (as many as 65% in 2007) also engage in complementary and alternative (CAM) medicine.
Among this 65% using CAM, some minority of them go beyond the most commonly used therapies such as acupuncture, multivitamins or herbal medicines. Many take to the internet and start searching for the latest "cure" for cancer, and Dr. Google will serve up no end of "new" and "breakthrough" and "suppressed" and "cheap" supplements or plant extracts or common household chemicals that miraculously cure cancer. It is perhaps the most commonly asked question I get from patients: "Dr. Nigh, have you heard about this new supplement that supposedly kills all cancer cells?"
There are more "cures" for cancer floating around the online world of alternative therapies than there are different types of cancer. Many of these are supported by compelling testimonials, accompanied by happy-looking individuals who have apparently had their cancer cured by that therapy.
Anyone who finds a website describing a supplement or product that will "cure" cancer should do what I do: research to find out if there is any evidence behind the claim. Here are some basic steps that will help anyone who is interested sort out the hype from the facts.
1. If the website describing or advertising a cure for cancer mentions research done at some Institute or University or research done "in Europe" but doesn't cite the specific study, assume there is no such research. If it existed, then citing the specific study and even linking directly to it would be very easy. It is easy to say research was done; pointing directly to that research is what matters.
2. Search for information in the medical research literature about that product. It can be intimidating to sort through research, because researchers seem incapable of describing their work in terms that are understandable to the general public. However, anyone can read even the most opaque research abstract and see if the research was conducted in vitro (i.e. research on cells in a petri dish), in vivo (i.e. usually in an animal), or in humans. More generally, if the website headlines use the phrase "cancer cells" at all, then you can be sure the research was in a petri dish, not in animals and certainly not humans.
For instance, this page has a dramatic headline, "This Herbal Extract Kills Cancer Cells on Contact!" But if you read the two actual studies that are cited at the bottom, both of them are on cancer cells. Will the product work in humans? No one knows, but my money says probably not.
It is amazing how many substances will kill cancer cells in a petri dish in a laboratory, but have little or no effect at all on cancer in animals or humans. For instance, this study shows that garlic will kill breast cancer cells in a laboratory petri dish. But a huge study of the relationship between diet and cancer found no protective effect of dietary garlic against most major cancer types, including breast cancer. Killing cells in a dish and killing them in a body are very different tasks.
To search the medical research, you do it in almost the same way you search any search engine, just leaving out all but the nouns. Limit the search to words likely to be found in the article you want. For instance, search "garlic cancer" but not "will garlic cure cancer?" To limit your search to studies that tested a product or nutrient in humans with cancer, you can put the word "subjects" as one of your search words, because people are referred to as subjects in studies, but cells and animals never are. You will still end up with pages of technical-sounding headlines. Don't give up; you are smarter than you think. Click a few, just ignore what you don't understand, and read the words you do. You'll come away with a greater understanding than you might think.
Going back to the dramatic headline about an extract of ginseng mentioned above, there is not a single study in the medical research done on humans or even animals! In other words, it is vaguely interesting, but nothing to bet your cancer treatment on. But I'll bet they are making a decent amount of money selling that product to hopeful cancer patients.
3. Ignore testimonials. I know it is hard to do, and this is not to suggest that personal experience doesn't count. It is simply acknowledging that any product found on the internet is there to make money for someone. It is exceedlingly easy for anyone - such as a shrewd businessperson - to write a fake testimonial and place it next to a friendly picture. Even a completely honest and legitimate testimonial can only convey a personal experience, whether it is with a product or with a service.
Even if a testimonial is legitimate (and surely many of them are), they are just that: personal experience. Remember that some patients have had their cancer put into permanent remission through the use of conventional treatments only. That doesn't mean that conventional treatments will work for everyone, or even for most people. The same is true of alternative therapies. There is no universal cure for cancer, one that will work for everyone. Any website that makes such a claim is not telling you the truth, but rather is playing on your emotions.
If you will follow these three simple rules, 95% of worthless claims can be weeded out. Cancer patients can save themselves untold hundreds of dollars on supplements and therapies that sound promising and exciting. The 5% that remain may very well be worth looking into. New therapies are being studied and reported on every week, and perhaps in some combination of those therapies lies the answer to cancer.
In the meantime, at Immersion Health we will continue to comb the research finding the most promising therapies that treat cancer as a metabolic disease. We have great successes with this approach. We do not claim to have found a cure for cancer (be very suspect of anyone who makes such a claim), but combining a strict diet with IV therapy, targeted supplementation, pancreatic enzymes, Chinese medicine and acupuncture, detoxification, visualization and more, we feel that we offer cancer patients the greatest potential for a full recovery that is available.
If you would like a free consultation with Dr. Nigh please call 503-719-4806 or email info@immersionhealthPDX.com to set it up. If you prefer to jump into a full evaluation to get started with testing and a treatment program, simply request a 90-minute new patient visit.
3. Ignore testimonials about products.