There are three types of falsehoods in the world: lies, damn lies, and statistics, according to Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister of England, as quoted by Mark Twain.
Applying that statement to medical studies makes it even more accurate (and risky). A recent Oxford University study that highlights the efficiency of current conventional cancer treatments and was published in The Lancet is one such instance.
It asserts that women who used tamoxifen for five years decreased the breast cancer death rate by one-third and justifies the use of chemotherapy.
Very impressive, but you’ve just been “statistic-ed,” you know.
The National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Prevention Trial claimed that there was a 49 percent decrease in the incidence of breast cancer in women who took tamoxifen for five years, according to the studies cited in the newspaper, which consistently read this way.
That is amazing. Would you have any doubts about using tamoxifen if your doctor told you that it reduced your risk of developing breast cancer by 49%? No, at least not until I spoke with Benjamin Disraeli. If you look beneath the numbers, the study’s findings actually show that taking tamoxifen decreased your risk of developing breast cancer from 1.3% to.68%. That amounts to a 49% difference between the two figures (as stated), but a mere.62% difference (in real terms) between them.
We now have to take into account the possibility that tamoxifen can induce cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and digestive tract in order to account for that negligible sixth-tenths of one-percent difference. Tamoxifen has been linked to liver cancer, according to a Johns Hopkins research, and it was classified as a Group I uterine carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1996. Another abruptly halted NCI research found that 130 women with deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in major blood veins) and 33 women with endometrial cancer who took tamoxifen reported confusion, sadness, and memory loss. Osteoporosis, cataracts, corneal alterations, optic nerve injury, and retinal harm are some more lasting harms. In other words, the 5% of people who used tamoxifen and had a decrease in breast cancer also saw a rise in other malignancies and life-threatening illnesses. A half percent improvement in actual terms is significantly less than the 49% “statistic-ed” improvement mentioned in the research, and the added risk is barely justified.
Is it surprising that the “war on cancer” continues to utterly fail once you look behind the numbers? The issue is that the doctors themselves concur with the statistics they use to mislead the public. However, the basic trend cannot be disputed. Not much is changing for the better. From one in five hundred in 1900 to about one in two today, the incidence rate of cancer has skyrocketed. Furthermore, there is a noticeable increase of “new,” even deadlier cancers like liver, pancreatic, and lymphoma for every statistical blip in the right direction for certain malignancies like breast and prostate cancer (after years of skyrocketing incidence and mortality, mind you).
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Chemotherapy
Let me outline some of the benefits and drawbacks of chemotherapy for those of you who are new to the discussion. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that you or someone you love will need to choose a cancer treatment plan.
It definitely makes sense to take a brief detour before discussing chemotherapy’s mechanism of action in order to discuss its history. The first medication used in cancer treatment wasn’t created with that usage in mind. During World War I, mustard gas was employed as a chemical warfare agent, and research into the gas continued during the war. A group of soldiers who unintentionally inhaled mustard gas during a military operation in World War II were later found to have extremely low white blood cell counts. It was assumed that a substance that harmed the quickly dividing white blood cells might also have an impact on cancer. In order to avoid inhaling the irritating gas, several patients with advanced lymphomas (cancers of specific white blood cells) were administered the medication through vein in the 1940s. Although just brief, their progress was astonishing. As a result of the encounter, scientists began investigating additional compounds that might possess comparable anti-cancer properties.
Chemotherapy is used to eradicate cancer cells from any location in the body, including cells that have detached from a primary tumor and moved via the blood or lymphatic systems to different body regions. After a tumor has been surgically removed, chemotherapy has been used successfully by many clinicians to suppress cancer cells. How does it function? Chemotherapy medications are cytotoxic, which means they poison the body’s most quickly proliferating cells, which is how the bulk of cancer cells function. So, if your cancer cells are growing quickly, chemotherapy might work for you.
Chemotherapy’s main drawback is that the medications destroy any dividing cell, including the many healthy cells throughout the body that are caught in the act of dividing as well as the cancer cells that are actively dividing. There isn’t even a remote probability of success for people whose “good” cells are growing more quickly than the cancer cells. This explains why chemotherapy only works in 2 to 4% of cancer cases, mostly in cases of Hodgkin’s disease, acute lymphocytic leukemia, testicular cancer, and choriocarcinoma.
You might wind up killing the body before the cancer in the majority of people who have healthy cell division. For example, there is a significant likelihood that certain quickly proliferating immune system cells, such as our T and B lymphocytes, would also perish, which will make it harder for our body to fight opportunistic infections that develop as a result of the treatment. Other rapidly growing cells include those in the stomach and intestines, the bone marrow cells that make blood cells, and the cells in the hair follicles, which is why a patient’s hair typically falls out.
In either case, the drug’s goal is to poison the body, causing excruciating agony and illness that are frequently worse than the disease itself. Blood poisoning is caused by the poisons, which assault healthy, dividing blood cells. Convulsions of the gastrointestinal system result in diarrhoea, lack of appetite, cramps, and increasing weakness. The entire lining of the intestines can be shed by some medications. Affected reproductive organs result in sterility. Memory is lost in the brain. The hair disintegrates. Hearing and vision are hampered. Kidney injury is present. In the mouth and throat, there are sores. The body is unable to fight infections and bleeds and bruises easily. Many patients choose to stop receiving treatment rather than endure the misery of having every conceivable function disturbed. When they publish the increased cancer death rates, it makes you question how most people pass away.
Treatment is particularly interesting that the majority of chemotherapists would not suggest chemotherapy to their families or take it themselves, according to numerous polls conducted over the years. The most hazardous compounds ever intentionally ingested by humans are the chemotherapy medications of today. In fact, those who provide these medications take considerable care to prevent exposure. The Cancer Handbook Chemotherapy, a standard resource for medical workers, provides sixteen OSHA safety standards and rigorous cautions for handling cytotoxic agents for medical personnel who work with the chemicals. In addition, research is ongoing into growing worries about mutagenesis and teratogenesis (the birth of defective children).
The terrible part is that we accept these kinds of outcomes because we believe we have no other option. Even though the majority of physicians find the claim that chemotherapy “improves quality of life” ridiculous, we blindly accept it as fact. Some medical professionals, like Dr. Ulrich Abel, even go so far as to claim that there is no scientific support for chemotherapy’s ability to prolong patients’ lives who are dealing with 80% of all cancers.
Overall, conventional chemotherapy is harmful, immunosuppressive, and cancer-causing. Why then do the majority of physicians and oncologists continue to recommend chemotherapy when mortality rates rise?
First, defining effective cancer treatment is important. According to the FDA, a medicine is considered “effective” if it reduces tumor size by 50% or more over the course of 28 days. There is almost always no connection at all between reducing tumors for 28 days and the cure of cancer or lengthening of life. Therefore, when a doctor tells a cancer patient that a treatment is “effective,” they do not suggest that the disease will be cured but rather that the tumor will temporarily decrease. (Again, sounding like Disraeli?)
Second, most medical professionals just lack alternative options. They deal with patients who they perceive to have incurable diseases and defend the ongoing loss of life caused by these medications on the grounds that it is their only available option (along with surgery and radiation). This stage is referred to as exploration rather than therapy, which is preferable to informing a patient there is no hope. Oncologists have spent many hours learning about dangerous, poisonous substances and how to deliver these medications. They just know this, too. They all want to assist cancer patients, but they are at a loss for additional possibilities, especially those that come from outside the medical community.
Third, there won’t be much incentive to change as long as drug companies and the cancer industry are making money, as is typical in all significant sectors. It is not surprising that the cancer industry generates more than $200 billion in revenue each year. Or, that the small number of people who looked for alternative cancer treatments experienced armed raids, license loss, professional slander, and ostracism. A prime example of this is Dr. Lundberg, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, who recently said the following about chemotherapy at a meeting of the National Institute of Health: “[It’s] a magnificent chance for rampant lying.” Because there is so much money to be earned, ethical concerns can get trampled in a rush to attack doctors and prescribers.
Last but not least, chemotherapy undoubtedly does benefit in a small number of cases. However, this does not imply that other treatments wouldn’t be equally effective or even superior. But in reality, the low success rate of the therapy is what keeps it in use. Doctors frequently encourage patients to choose the therapy even when it has little possibility of success in their particular instances based on these infrequent triumphs.
Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that the advantages of chemotherapy differ greatly from cancer to cancer, often increasing “short-term” survivability by as much as 50%, but sometimes frequently by 1% or less. For instance, less than 1 in 100 people who have lung cancer will benefit statistically from chemotherapy, yet doctors frequently push their patients to undergo this harmful and ineffective course of treatment. And on top of everything else, chemotherapy has a very strong age dependence. With young people who have strong immune systems, the likelihood of success increases significantly, dropping to roughly 50/50 by age 50. And by “50/50,” I don’t mean that it works 50% of the time, but rather that it’s a toss-up between chemo and doing nothing at all in terms of survivability. And by the age of 55, it is statistically preferable to do nothing than to undergo chemotherapy.
Remember that no matter what else is said about chemotherapy, it will never be claimed that it treats the disease’s underlying causes. It just targets the symptom. Nobody, not even the most cynical medical professional, asserts that cancer is caused by a lack of treatment.
There is obviously only so much we can do given the existing situation, and we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for the industry to change anytime soon. However, because of ignorance, resources, and bureaucrats, we do not have to ignore our own personal health and wellness.
Take an Active Role as a Fix
I constantly advise people to be proactive about their health, and coping with a life-threatening illness like cancer makes this even more crucial. Research your particular type of cancer and ask as many questions as you can to learn about the conventional and alternative success rates of various treatments. Look for methods that help the body recover itself by strengthening it rather than weakening it. I also urge you to read Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, a book I wrote, which offers many recommendations for cancer patients as well as preventative steps everyone can take to avert developing cancer in the first place. (A free copy is available for download at www.jonbarron.org.
Check out the newsletter archives while you’re there, too.) Finally, exercise caution when interpreting any study or statistic or when drawing conclusions from what you read. Understand the purpose of the study. Avoid being “statistic-ed.” In the end, it is our responsibility to take care of our bodies and our health. It is only sensible to consider the specifics.
And one last thing. There is more hope for treating cancer than you may possibly realize. Today, there are at least 18 different peoples who do not have cancer; several of these have no record of even one cancer victim in their whole culture. Does genetics have an impact? Absolutely likely. However, when entire civilizations remain cancer-free, the links between lifestyle and environment become obvious—especially when those cancer rates shift once people leave their original setting. That indicates that, for the majority of us, changing our environmental and lifestyle factors will significantly increase our chances of preventing cancer or, in the event that we do, being able to treat it.