Over the years I have repeatedly found that all medical recommendations are best treated with a large dose of scepticism.
Nowhere is this more true than in the treatment of cancer.
Patients who are diagnosed with cancer find themselves in a state of shock. And yet, while in a state of shock, they find themselves needing to make a number of vital decisions very quickly.
One of the big questions is often this one: ‘Should I have chemotherapy?’
Chemotherapy might improve a patient’s chances of survival by three to five per cent though that modest figure is usually over generous. For example, the evidence suggests that chemotherapy offers breast cancer patients an uplift in survival of little more than 2.5%.
When you consider that chemotherapy can kill and does terrible damage to healthy cells, and to the immune system, it is difficult to see the value of taking chemotherapy.
I don’t think it is any exaggeration to suggest that much of the hype around chemotherapy has taken the treatment into the area of fraud – far more fraudulent indeed than treatments which are dismissed as irrelevant or harmful by the establishment.
The chances are that the doctors looking after you – especially the specialist oncologists in hospital – will recommend chemotherapy. They may push hard to accept their recommendation. They may even be cross or dismissive or assume you are ignorant or afraid if you decide you don’t want it. Cancer charities often shout excitedly about chemotherapy. But they are also often closely linked to the drug companies which make money out of chemotherapy – which in my view makes them part of the large and thriving ‘cancer industry’. It is important to remember that drug companies exist to make money and they will do whatever is necessary to further this aim. They lie and they cheat with scary regularity and they have no interest in helping patients or saving lives. Remember that: the sole purpose of drug companies is to make money, whatever the human cost might be. They will happily suppress potentially life-saving information if doing so increases their profits. It is my belief that by allying themselves with drug companies, cancer charities have become corrupt.
Little or no advice is given to patients about how they themselves might reduce the risk of their cancer returning. The implication is that it’s chemotherapy or nothing. So, for example, doctors are unlikely to tell breast cancer patients that they should avoid dairy foods, though the evidence that they should is very strong.
The one certainty is that it is extremely unlikely that anyone you see will tell you all the truths about chemotherapy. The sad truth is that the statistics about chemotherapy are, of course, fiddled to boost the drug company sales and, therefore, drug company profits. And the deaths caused by chemotherapy are often misreported or under-estimated. So, for example, if a patient who has been taking chemotherapy dies of a sudden heart attack their death will probably be put down as a heart attack – rather than as a result of the cancer or the chemotherapy. There may be some mealy mouthed suggestion that the death was treatment related but the drug will probably not be named and shamed. Neither the chemotherapy nor the cancer will be deemed responsible. What this means in practice is that the survival statistics for chemotherapy are considerably worse than the figures which are made available – considerably worse, indeed, than whatever positive effect might be provided by a harmless placebo.
Here’s another thing: patients who have chemotherapy and survive five years are counted as having been cured by chemotherapy. And patients who have chemotherapy and then die five and a bit years after their diagnosis don’t count as cancer related deaths. And they certainly don’t count as chemotherapy deaths.
A 2016 academic study looked at five year survival rates and concluded that in 90% of patients (including the commonest breast cancer tumours) chemotherapy increased five year survival by less than 2.5%. Only a very small number of cancers (such as testicular cancer and Hodgkin’s disease) were treated effectively by chemotherapy. On top of this dismal success rate, it must be remembered that chemotherapy cripples the immune system (now, at long last, recognised as important in the fight against cancer), damages all living cells, damages the intestines, can cause nausea and tinnitus, can damage nerves, can and does damage the bone marrow with the result that leukaemia develops, (staggeringly, iatrogenic myeloid leukaemia, usually known as ‘therapy related’ in an attempt to distance the disease from doctors, is, in ten per cent of cases, a result of chemotherapy), damages the heart and the hearing and will, in a significant number of patients, result in death.
It is true that chemotherapy may reduce the size of a tumour but in stage 4 cancer chemotherapy seems to encourage a cancer to return more quickly and more aggressively. The cancer stem cells seem to be untouched by the chemotherapy drugs.
Despite all this, the protocol in the treatment of cancer is to turn to chemotherapy and doctors are always reluctant to try anything else.
The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, which represents 24 Royal Colleges, and a number of other important health bodies, has reported that chemotherapy can do more harm than good when prescribed as palliatives for terminally ill cancer patients. The colleges criticise chemotherapy advocates for ‘raising false hopes’ and doing ‘more harm than good’. They concluded that chemotherapy drugs are unlikely to work.