I wanted to write about chemotherapy and how annoyed I get when people call it a “cure” for cancer. First of all, some cancers can easily be treated without radiation or chemotherapy but by simple surgery, if you’re lucky. All cancers are different and require different treatments, and this treatment is more or less efficient on some cancers than others. Meanwhile it could differ from individual to individual. I remember someone discussing this on a forum and he said “ask all of who got cured from their cancer; they’ll get mad at for you saying it’s not a cure”. All I kept thinking about was the remaining 20 % of all children who couldn’t get mad at him for talking bullshit – because they’re dead. Where was the cure for them?
Radiation, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and surgery and possibly more are treatment options, sometimes to “cure” the cancer, sometimes to stop it from growing. Even if the type of cancer you have respond easily to treatment, there’s always the risk of the cancer coming back. My brother got what in Swedish is called “skivepitelcancer”, I believe you’d call it Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC); it’s a common skin cancer. It was discovered early and he went to the local health clinic and they removed it – he got a scar and possibly the fear it might return, but no other side effects. Either way, there are also other aspects to consider, one aspect is the damage caused by the chemotherapy. Until we refine chemotherapy such as they target the cancer cells exclusively or almost exclusively, we should call it a cure, but not before that.
When people hear cure, they think antibiotics, and combined with the public’s ignorance in the matter – calling chemotherapy a cure is dangerous. It’s dangerous because once you’ve found something; it’s pointless to keep looking, and we need to keep looking for a cure for cancer. I have a personal experience here and although it’s too late for me, it isn’t for those in the future – yes the cancer is gone for me but it nearly killed me and have caused severe trauma, both physically and psychologically. As I said yesterday, my oncologist called me and said she wanted to check if I have mental/cognitive fatigue on top of my regular fatigue. And that other stuff. For those who have never experienced this before, it’s so difficult to explain. You feel weak, feeble; it’s not the same as being tired before bed. This a big issue for me since I get these periods where I’m doing well – I start to study, go to school, I get in shape and then like a sledgehammer it’s all over within a year or two. What I’m saying is that my treatment left me handicapped in a way and chronically ill. It’s a big price to pay.
Whilst researching this subject to see what others felt, I didn’t find any answer to “is chemotherapy a cure”. I’ve asked oncology nurses and doctors if they consider it a cure, and they generally don’t. Anyway, looking for this material I stumbled upon alternative medicine sites, spouting out “facts”, for instance that 90 % of those with cancer didn’t die from cancer, which simply isn’t true. This could become a matter of interpretation – it’s not like cancer sneaks up on you from behind, strangling you while you’re asleep. It causes damage that eventually leads to death. Occasionally someone dies from treatment – I can’t say I’ve experienced it first-hand, but it was close. The article on “The truth behind cancer” I linked to above have actually been shared 9k times – it’s frightening. What’s more, by linking to it, I improve their SEO, unless Google’s algorithm adjusts for websites spreading bullshit.
They suggest alternative medicine to treat cancer and this is where it becomes dangerous because some people actually believe in this. If you have insomnia and take homeopathic medications and the placebo effect is enough to help you fall asleep, fine. Yet these people have articles with headlines such as “Oleander Extract: How This Traditional Turkish Remedy Fights Cancer & Other Disease”. I only read the article enough to make sure it wasn’t a joke but they really are for real, interviewing “doctors”, and yet again people are liking this on Facebook, spreading this ignorance.
This is a thorny issue for me though because we know through extensive research that homeopathy is a sham and homeopathic remedies are no more effective than a placebo. Yet if it works for the patient, taking a medication which has an effect, even if it’s the placebo effect, for this patient it’s a perceived improvement without any side effects. The reason homeopathic medications have no side effects though is that they have no effects either unless you’re allergic to one of the compounds or include the placebo effect. I’m not talking about the “active substance”, for instance the cure for insomnia would be caffeine but due to how homeopathy works, it’s the other chemicals that make the drug in to a pill and the colouring dye that are more plausible to act as allergens.
This is because homeopaths believe that if a substance can cause an illness, it can cure it. They also believe that the more diluted the substance is, the more effective their concoction is. So they dilute it, and boy how they dilute it! They indicate the potency of the medicine on a C-scale; common values seem to be 30C or 60C. If it’s 30C it means it has been diluted to one part of the active substance to 10030 parts of water.
Depending on how much it’s been diluted informs us how many oceans we’d need to dilute it as much as they do – it requires more than all the water we have in all oceans combined on earth. Suffice to say though that whatever medical substance left in there is long gone and you’re more likely drinking water that once upon a time was a building block of someone’s urine or faeces – depending on how diluted it is, we don’t have enough water on earth to dilute it as much as they do during their manufacturing process. As another source says:
“One question asked entrants to calculate the mass of arsenic oxide in 100 ml (a small amount, but still about four times greater than the volumes that are usually sold) of a 30C homeopathic remedy. The answer was 2.06 x 10-30 grams [that’s to the power of tenth -30, writer’s comment]. That’s a thousand times less than the mass of a single proton. A drop in the ocean isn’t the half of it. Not only is there not even one molecule of the original substance in there, the dilutions have wiped out even the possibility of a sub-atomic particle.”
We’re then facing a dilemma – same as before really, we could likely take regular tap water and find more beneficial substances there than in there than in these pills.
Should we subsidize known placebos because they work on some? To me the answer is no, we cannot support these companies selling modern snake oil. When I searched on Google for “is chemotherapy a cure for cancer”, or “chemotherapy cure cancer”, those pages were the predominant ones, on the top. Their lobbying efforts will get even more powerful and before you know it, they’re sold like any other medication and we’re paying for it.
Some suggest they ought to be banned outright, I disagree. However, I think there should be legislation and by-law required labels on homeopathic medicine, like they have on cigarettes that states something like “Studies have shown that this medication is no more effective than a placebo”. They would have different messages of course, like “there’s no scientific mechanism that would indicate this medication has any effect”. Stores selling this should be required to have signs, showing the inefficacy of this alternative medicine. The personnel working at these stores cannot be allowed to say that it can cure a serious illness but refer them to a doctor doing real medicine. That these stores meet these criteria needs to be surveyed of course.
I sincerely hope no one reading this feel like their only hope is alternative medicine, but we cannot keep pretending. People are dying because they believe in this. Steve Jobs believed in it – he tried it and it failed and it was too late by then – his cancer, if I recall, was a manageable one. Just use search for “Steve Jobs homeopathy”.
It’s important that we keep looking for a cure, or as some doctor suggested in an interview I saw ages ago, to find a way to live with the cancer, not unlike a diabetic.
Once people believe we have a cure for cancer, why should you donate money to research? Even if someone would consider this a cure, it’s a lousy one. They literally inject poison in your veins and it has and will keep affecting my entire life.