Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chemotherapy has Pro's and Con's aka Shut the Fuck Up Mike Adams

I was checking one of my favorite sites I love to hate on, It is a haven for all sorts of medical quackery. Under the guise of offering natural alternatives to health care (without evidence of them actually working) he rambles about government conspiracy, big pharma and the evils of western medicine. His website reads like a typical shitty newspaper. Flashy headlines, an emphasis on pop culture, short grossly oversimplified conclusions and a lack of scholarship to back up his claims. I am going to use a term that I heard from Dr. Mark Crislip, who does the podcast Quackcast and delve into some evidence based ridicule.

Celebrities appear to be his favorite target. As many of you know Patrick Swayze recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. This disease is one of the nastiest forms of cancer with a low 5 year survival rate and an average life expectancy of around 6 months after diagnosis. After he passed away wrote an article titled "Patrick Swayze dead at 57 after chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer". What a piece of garbage. Not to mention an insult to a man who put up a heroic 20 month battle with a devastating illness.
Sorry the chemotherapy didn't kill him, it is one of the most stunning examples of confusing causation with correlation I have ever seen.

People who get diagnosed with terminal cancer have a few things in common. They normally get some form of treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Secondly most of them die eventually from the disease. If you want to pick one of the forms of treatment as an evil villain chemotherapy is going to be your target. By any accounts it is horrible. In short the mechanism for chemotherapy to work is that it kills rapidly dividing cells in your body, both good and bad. This is why hair loss is a common side effect. Because cancer cells are rapidly dividing the cocktail of drugs target these cells, hopefully destroying much of the cancer. Chemotherapy's effectiveness depends based on the disease it is treating, cancer isn't one disease, it is a grouping of hundreds. In some diseases such as Hodgkin's lymphoma the cure rate approaches 95 percent. In other diseases such as later stage pancreatic cancer it can only be used to moderately extend life.

In order for a drug to be used legally in medicine it needs to pass two major tests. First it has to be effective, double blind clinical trials need to show to works better than placebo treatment. Secondly it has to be safe or more correctly that the benefits need to outweigh the risks. If you get the common cold and someone hands you a pill saying this will cure your cold instantly but you have a 1 in 50 chance of dying any person in the right mind would refuse it. If you replace common cold with lethal cancer most people would take the pill. These are extreme, oversimplified examples but they illustrate my point. Chemotherapy has been shown to be effective in fighting cancer and curing it in some cases. It has also been shown to have brutal side effects and even the chance of serious immune disorders. However simply put the benefits outweigh the risks. Doctors can save more lives, extending the lifespan of cancer patients so they can spend more time with loved ones by using chemotherapy drugs.

There is extensive research on this topic but delusional cranks like Mike Adams aren't bothered to read and understand them. They instead recommend "natural ways" to fight cancer. Well OK lets skeptically look at these natural ways. I personally don't care if it is natural or made in a lab, I just care that it works and the risk/benefit outcome is favourable. I am going to quote him again.

Having put his faith in conventional chemotherapy, he largely dismissed ideas that nutrition, superfoods or "alternative medicine" might save him, instead betting his life on the chemotherapy approach which seeks to poison the body into a state of remission instead of nourishing it into a state of health.

Four words in and Mike fucks up. Faith implies believing in something without evidence. Such as believing in God, believing in reincarnation or the vast majority of alternative medicine. Mr. Swayze relied on doctors explaining to him the best avenue of life extending treatment. It was based on clinical trials and decades of research not faith. There is uncertainty as the science hasn't advanced far enough to have a full cure but people are tirelessly working at it.

He then begins to list things: nutrition (check, good nutrition is important to help prevent cancer and eating well while having cancer is probably a good thing too although it will not cure you), superfoods (meaningless), and "alternative medicine" (so broad and ill defined it is also meaningless). I won't go into these each in depth but let me summarize. I am not against "natural cures" I am however against bogus cures that don't work. If you want to claim something is a treatment for cancer do actual research. Don't make shit up. People DIE because they do not take the drugs that could have saved their lives. It is assholes like Mike Adams that spread ignorance and cause people to die needlessly.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have cancer? Do you know some one who does? Do you love some one who has cancer? I'm watching my wife wither away from chemo. Have you watched anyone wither away from chemo? Have you done the research necessary in order to effectively challenge western medicine practices? Have you or anyone you know participated in a clinical trial? Are you smart enough to realize that there are many options open to someone with cancer besides what you are told by oncologists? Do you have an open mind to all possibilities? When you HAVE cancer, or love someone who has CANCER, you might think differently. Also, "alternative" is a bad word. it suggests that chemo is correct. With a 2% success rate over the last 60 years, I'm completely open to an alternative.
    Please provide me with evidence to prove your statement that "people DIE because they do not take these drugs." And please detail what drugs they are, what type of cancers, age, demographic and genetic info, disease stage, survival rates, etc etc. In other words, do some research.