Someone who has been a part of my life for the last 15 years died today, at the age of just 66.
Not wishing to invade his family’s privacy, I will refer to him only as G.
G was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and was “treated” with repeated bouts of chemo.
I feel incredibly sad and angry right now, knowing that G put his faith in orthodox medicine and continued to trust he was getting the best “treatment” available as he was pumped full of deadly poison day after day – with precisely nothing done, at any time, to actually support the health of his body.
I’m not saying his cancer could have been cured. I don’t know whether it could have. But the best modern medicine had to offer him (in common with so many patients) was intravenous administration of extremely hazardous substances (more on that below) and that, to me, is a travesty.
Chemotherapy. Chemo“therapy”? The term itself is rather a confusing misnomer.
It’s not therapy – a word whose dictionary definition is “a treatment intended to relieve or heal a condition”.
Poison can’t heal. Can it relieve?
Chemo is capable of killing cancer cells, so it can shrink tumours – though often only in the short term.
But it also kills healthy cells so it can (and often does) destroy the immune system (many who die during chemo die of relatively minor infections their body could not fight), and cause organ failure, internal bleeding and death (to name just a few of its common side effects).
In G’s case, initial scans showed the tumour shrinking, but within a few months the cancer had spread like wildfire, as happens so often, and as I wrote about here.
For several reasons, this outcome is not in the least surprising.
First, chemo drugs are such toxic and dangerous substances that if a spill occurs in a hospital, it is considered a major biohazard.
No member of hospital staff must go near the spill unless they’re wearing full protective clothing, and the incident must be reported.
In fact, to illustrate just what a big deal a chemo spill is, here is the University of Toledo’s “Hazardous Materials Spill Procedures” document. On pages 3 and 4 you can read its elaborate 18-point procedure for dealing with a spill of “chemotherapeutic hazardous materials”.
Sorry if I’m nit-picking here, but “therapeutic hazardous”? Isn’t that a rather obvious oxymoron?
One reason chemo agents are treated as biohazards is that they cause serious burns if spilled onto skin.
Anyway. The toxic, hazardous substance that is the subject of the 18-point emergency health and safety protocol linked to above is the same substance that is injected into the veins of sick patients.
I’ll leave you to ponder how logical that is, how likely it is to be in the best interests of the patient, and how in keeping it is with the Hippocratic Oath “First, do no harm”.
I’ll tell you what I think.
As chemo is so widely administered to cancer patients, yet also so deadly, it is my belief that more people die of chemo than of cancer itself.
Here is another reason I believe that.
Recent research identified a compound in chemo drugs that fuels cancer growth.
It found, specifically, that repeated bouts of chemo can cause healthy cells to secrete a protein – WNT16B – that helps cancer cells to grow, invade surrounding tissue and resist chemo treatment.
In lab tests, scientists observed an up to 30-fold increase in WNT16B production in response to chemotherapy.
So now we know that when cancer suddenly starts growing and spreading more aggressively after chemo – as so often happens – that is not only due to chemo’s ability to quickly ravage the immune system, but also because chemo causes healthy cells to start churning out a chemical that accelerates cancer growth.
This research was published in August and you’d hope that it would lead to chemo being used a lot more judiciously.
But in fact that should have happened at least 20 years ago.
That was the time at which a landmark review of the evidence around chemotherapy for advanced cancer, conducted by a leading epidemiologist and biostatistician, showed it to be a useless treatment in the majority of cases.
In the late 1980s Ulrich Abel contacted 350 medical centres around the world and asked them to send him anything they had ever published regarding chemotherapy for advanced cancer, and also reviewed and analysed thousands of articles published in medical journals.
In a 1990 interview in German magazine Der Spiegel, Abel commented that chemotherapy for advanced cancer is “a scientific wasteland” and its overall success rate “appalling”.
His paper, Chemotherapy of advanced epithelial cancer – a critical review was published in 1992. In it, Abel concluded that “there is no direct evidence that chemotherapy prolongs survival in patients with advanced carcinoma” (cancer). (Note: the term “epithelial” encompasses all of the most common cancers, which account for at least 80% of cancer cases.)
He wrote that: “Many oncologists take it for granted that response to therapy [i.e. initial tumour shrinkage] prolongs survival, an opinion which is based on a fallacy and which is not supported by clinical studies”.
If you’re reading this because you or a loved one is trying to decide whether to have chemotherapy, my advice would be, do your research.
Cancer patients are often made to feel by their doctors that if they refuse the chemo recommended to them, they are taking a big risk with their health.
But they are often not told enough about the big risk they are taking by having it.
There are cases where chemo is indicated; please don’t think I’m saying otherwise.
But (1) it is overused, and (2) regardless of whether chemo is or isn’t indicated, all cancer patients need to be on a diet and lifestyle regime which supports their overall health and immunity, yet that’s something else you’re unlikely to hear from your doctor.
Ben Goldacre’s new book Bad Pharma – which I reviewed here – is about the worrying influence of pharmaceutical corporations on medical research and practice.
The book shows that “evidence-based medicine” is not in fact reliably “evidence based”. Other interests are coming first and large numbers of patients will continue to suffer and die needlessly until it stops.
G was wealthy enough to afford the best treatment money can buy, and I find it indescribably sad that he died believing he’d had that, when he’d in fact had nothing of the kind.
Like so many before him, he did what his doctors told him to because he believed that they knew best and that if there was anything that could be done for him, they would be doing it.
The whole thing is tragic beyond words.