Complementary Yes, Alternative No! – Cancer Treatment
I am a member of a couple of CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia) support groups on Facebook. I have many friends who are trained in and offer a range of alternative therapy treatments. I myself have undertaken a course in homeopathy and am a qualified trained reflexologist (with ITEC, although this has lapsed due to physical health issues; I was unable to practice). I understand and support holistic treatments with as wide a range as is possible and proven efficacious (whether placebo or not, placebo can work if the patient believes it will).
One thing I will not put up with and will object to strongly is when complementary therapy is offered as alternative, and conventional medicinal cancer treatments are advised to be ineffective (at best), or to be tools of a profit-driven pharma giant intent on perpetuating damaging health procedures which will kill or make the condition worse (at worst).
This is dangerous. This kills, and has done.* Let me be clear, I am not talking about prevention, but treatment. Living a healthy lifestyle is a good idea, and nutrition, exercise, general maintenance etc. is a positive step. Furthermore, as long as complementary medicines are not contraindicated by scientifically/empirically proven conventional practice, I see no harm. By contraindicated, I mean that some complementary treatments directly affect the efficiency of medication that may be prescribed by doctors/oncologists – for example St. John’s Wort is commonly used to treat depression (and has a proven positive effect, although why is still debated) but will reduce the effectiveness of other forms of medication (in my case, my epilepsy medication at the moment but also some cancer treatments which I will need in the future).
One of the problems of a privatised healthcare system is that it, like any system which has a profit motive at its core, will be treated suspiciously by those who are reliant on its services. The UK is lucky in that at the moment it has the NHS, which provides some protection against a purely profit-driven motivation in healthcare. Capitalism is inherently riven with abuse; we see that in the garment industry with sweat shops, in the sex industry with trafficking, rape and abuse (still called sex work/prostitution by the media which enables abuse to continue, in my opinion), even with the poor and vulnerable in society forced into low-paid work and substandard housing for the sake of more money in the landlord and/or shareholder’s pockets.
Complementary medicinal practice is also profit-driven, a fact which seems to be forgotten. Just as with conventional medicine, this means it is also open to abuse but unlike conventional medicine, there is no registering body or oversight practice which protects those seeking complementary treatments. Especially where there is private/insurance-led healthcare systems, this is open to the con artist seeking to profit from the very real fears of patients and those who care for them, and those who fear diagnosis.
I have read a great many ‘alternative medicine’ posts and watched many videos since my diagnosis 2 years ago. What I find with almost all of them is a lack of empirical evidence or source data from which they are drawing their conclusions. There is a lot of correlation proves causation, and poor pseudo-science written in very convincing language. I have research training to degree level; I am able to discern from the language used and from my own research what is worth following up and what is merely quackery (as I saw one video call conventional medicine, at the same time as state that is what conventional medicine calls ‘alternative medicinal practice’). The citing of historical methods of treatment as being seen at some time as ‘alternative’ is taken to mean current alternative treatments will be accepted as being as effective as already proven treatments available in conventional medicine. This may be true but it is not proven at the current time, despite scientific testing. To state this is to play on the hopes and fears of people who have a disease which if not treated at all WILL kill them. I find this reprehensible fear-mongering.**
There is talk of ‘sources’ and even of murder of alternative therapist providers by ‘big pharma’.** None of which is proven, but when those of us who are living with a cancer diagnosis read this, we are scared. Trust is very important between a patient and a care provider. These articles are deliberately vague but give enough data to be read as very believable. They destroy trust and create more fear. They are very much about ‘alternative’ therapies at the expense of conventional treatment, but not through informed decision-making.
Access to the internet and social media posts has exacerbated this situation. Constant posts even in online support groups can give false hope. The line between conventional and complementary therapies and the seeming inability for conventional medicine to work with complementary therapies doesn’t help. Far more complementary therapists are willing to work with conventional practice than the other way round, and this leaves the patient in a frightening, confusing position. Both need to work together, not pull apart.
Treatment is about the whole body. Complementary therapies are as much about the mind as the body and that is vital in creating an optimum environment in which one can rest, recover, and revitalise. Alternative therapies are about profit as much as they say conventional therapies are. But worse, much worse, is that they kill. All we can do is raise the point though. There is nothing we can do to stop this, and people will die as a result.
It’s immoral, unethical and certainly not an alternative, unless we mean an alternative to life. Don’t take my word for it; I admit I have a bias. I am very much an empiricist; I rely on data, factual information, the scientific method and proven effectiveness.*** I am not a faith-based person, that is not my character. What I ask is that you do your research, go deeper than the links I have provided, apply critical thinking and seek others to help you. Research source information, check out the background of websites you utilise – who are they and what is their motive?
It’s your life. It’s your loved one’s life. Make it a good one.