Chemotherapy, An Interesting Choice by Jon Barron

Chemotherapy, An Interesting Choice
by Jon Barron

Mark Twain quoted Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister of England, as saying:
‘There are three kinds of lies in the world: lies, damn lies, and statistics.’
That statement is even more true (and dangerous) when applied to medical
studies. One example is the recent Oxford University study published in The
Lancet which touts the effectiveness of today’s conventional cancer treatments.
It supports the use of chemotherapy and states that women who used tamoxifen for
five years reduced the breast cancer death rate by one-third.

Very impressive, until you realize that you’ve just been ‘statistic-ed.’

As presented, the newspaper cites studies proving the efficacy of tamoxifen that
consistently read something like ‘The National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer
Prevention Trial reported that there was a 49 percent decrease in the incidence
of breast cancer in women who took tamoxifen for five years.’

That’s stunning. If your doctor told you that using tamoxifen cut your chances
of getting breast cancer by 49%, would there be any question in your mind on
whether or not to use it? Not in mine – at least until I talked to Benjamin
Disraeli. If you look past the statistics, the truth is that according to the
study, your odds of getting breast cancer without using tamoxifen was only 1.3%,
and with tamoxifen it dropped to .68%. That represents a 49% difference between
the two numbers (as cited), but just a little over one-half of one-percent
difference (.62%) in real terms.

And for that meager sixth-tenths of one-percent difference, we now need to
consider that tamoxifen can cause cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and
gastrointestinal tract. A study at Johns Hopkins found that tamoxifen promotes
liver cancer, and in 1996, a division of the World Health Organization, the
International Agency for Research on Cancer, declared tamoxifen a Group I
carcinogen for the uterus. In another abruptly curtailed NCI study, 33 women
that took tamoxifen developed endometrial cancer, 17 suffered blood clots in the
lungs, 130 developed deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in major blood vessels)
and many experienced confusion, depression, and memory loss. Other permanent
damage includes osteoporosis, retinal damage, corneal changes, optic nerve
damage, and cataracts. In short, the half percent of those who received a
reduction in breast cancer by using tamoxifen traded it for an increase in other
cancers and life threatening diseases. A half percent in real world terms is
vastly different from the 49% ‘statistic-ed’ improvement cited in the studies –
and hardly worth the increased risk.

Once you look behind the numbers, is it any wonder the ‘war on cancer’ continues
to fail so miserably? The problem is that the doctors themselves believe the
statistically manipulated numbers they feed to the public. And yet, the general
trend is undeniable. Things are not getting better. The incidence rate of cancer
has exploded from around one in five hundred in 1900 to approximately one in two
today. And for every statistical blip downward in selected cancers such as
breast and prostate cancer (after years of soaring incidence and mortality, mind
you), there is a significant jump in “new,” even more deadly cancers such as
liver, pancreatic, and lymph cancers.

Chemotherapy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

For those of you who are new to the debate, let me explain some of the pros and
cons of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, there is a high probability that you or
someone you know will have to face the decision on how to treat cancer.

Before we get into how chemotherapy works, it’s probably worth a little
digression to talk about its history. The first drug used for cancer
chemotherapy was not originally intended for that purpose. Mustard gas was used
as a chemical warfare agent during World War I and was studied further during
World War II. During a military operation in World War II, a group of people
were accidentally exposed to mustard gas and were later found to have very low
white blood cell counts. It was reasoned that an agent that damaged the rapidly
growing white blood cells might have a similar effect on cancer. Therefore, in
the 1940s, several patients with advanced lymphomas (cancers of certain white
blood cells) were given the drug by vein, rather than by breathing the
irritating gas. Their improvement, although temporary, was remarkable. That
experience started researchers studying other substances that might have similar
effects against cancer.

Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells anywhere in the body, including cells
that have broken off from a main tumor and traveled through the blood or lymph
systems to other parts of the body. Many doctors have successfully slowed cancer
cells by using chemotherapy after a tumor has been surgically removed. How does
it work? Chemotherapy drugs are cytotoxic, meaning they poison the cells in our
body that multiply the most rapidly, which is how the majority of cancer cells
perform. So, if your cancer cells are rapidly multiplying, you may find
chemotherapy effective.

The major disadvantage to chemotherapy is that the drugs don’t just kill the
cancer cells that are dividing, but any dividing cell, including the multitude
of healthy cells all over the body caught in the act of dividing. For those
whose ‘healthy’ cells are multiplying faster than the cancer cells, there isn’t
even a theoretical chance of success. This explains why chemotherapy is
effective in only 2 to 4% of cancers – primarily, Hodgkin’s disease, Acute
Lymphocytic Leukemia, Testicular cancer, and Choriocarcinoma.

For the majority of people who have healthy cell division, you may end up
killing the body before the cancer. For instance, there is a high probability
that certain fast multiplying immune system cells including our T and B
lymphocytes will also die, contributing to our body’s inability to fight
opportunistic diseases that arise as a result of the treatment. Other cells that
grow fast are cells of the bone marrow that produce blood cells, cells in the
stomach and intestines, and cells of the hair follicles, which is why a
patient’s hair usually falls out.

In either event, the drug’s objective is to poison the system-creating
horrendous pain and illness often worse than the disease itself. The toxins
attack healthy, dividing blood cells and cause blood poisoning. The
gastrointestinal system is thrown into convulsions causing nausea, diarrhea,
loss of appetite, cramps, and progressive weakness. Some drugs can slough the
entire lining of the intestines. Reproductive organs are affected causing
sterility. The brain loses memory. The hair falls out. Eyesight and hearing are
impaired. The kidneys are damaged. Sores appear in the mouth and throat. The
body bleeds and bruises easily and can’t fight infections. Every conceivable
function is disrupted with such agony for the patient that many of them elect to
die of the cancer rather than to continue treatment. It makes you wonder how
most people die when they report the rising cancer death statistics.

It’s especially telling when a number of surveys over the years show that most
chemotherapists would not take chemotherapy themselves or recommend it for their
families. Today’s chemotherapy drugs are the most toxic substances ever put
deliberately into the human body. In fact, personnel who administer these drugs
take great precautions to avoid exposure. The Handbook of Cancer Chemotherapy, a
standard reference for medical personnel, offers strict warnings for handling
cytotoxic agents and sixteen OSHA safety procedures for medical personnel who
work around the chemicals. In addition, increased concerns regarding mutagenesis
and teratogenesis [deformed babies] continue to be investigated.

The sad part is that we accept these types of results, feeling that we have no
choice in the matter. We submissively believe the medical community’s statement
that chemotherapy ‘improves quality of life’ even though most doctors find this
absurd. Some doctors, such as Dr. Ulrich Abel, go so far as to state that there
is no scientific evidence for chemotherapy being able to extend the lives of
patients suffering from 80% of all cancers.

Bottom line, orthodox chemotherapy is toxic, immunosuppressant, and
carcinogenic. As death rates keep going up, why then do the majority of doctors
and oncologists still push chemotherapy?

First, effective cancer treatment is a matter of definition. The FDA defines an
‘effective’ drug as one that achieves a 50% or more reduction in tumor size for
28 days. In the vast majority of cases there is absolutely no correlation
between shrinking tumors for 28 days and the cure of the cancer or extension of
life. So, when a doctor says ‘effective’ to a cancer patient, it does not mean
it cures cancer-only temporary shrinks a tumor. (Sound like Disraeli again?)

Secondly, most doctors just don’t know what else to do. They face patients that
they feel have hopeless conditions and justify the continual loss of life
brought about by these drugs because it’s the only alternative they know (along
with surgery and radiation). They refer to this stage not as therapy, but as
experimentation, which is better than telling a patient there is no hope. As for
oncologists, they have devoted countless hours to the understanding of
poisonous, deadly compounds and how to administer these drugs. This too is all
they know. They all want to help cancer patients, but they don’t have other
options in their arsenal – certainly not options that come from outside the
medical fraternity.

Third, and commonly seen in all major industries, as long as drug companies and
the cancer industry see profits, there will be little motivation to change. It
is not surprising that the cancer industry turns over in excess of $200 billion
annually. Or, that the few who sought alternative cancer methods encountered
armed raids, loss of licensure, professional smearing, and ostracism. One such
person is Dr. Lundberg, editor of the Journal of the American Medical
Association, who stated at a recent National Institute of Health meeting, about
chemotherapy: ‘[It’s] a marvellous opportunity for rampant deceit. So much money
is there to be made that ethical principles can be overrun sometimes in a
stampede to get at physicians and prescribers.”

And last but not least, in a small percentage of cases, chemotherapy absolutely
does help – which is not to say that other approaches wouldn’t work as well, or
better. But it is, in fact, this minimal success rate that fuels the continued
use of the therapy. Based on these occasional successes, doctors will often
pressure patients to opt for the therapy even when it has little chance of
success in their particular cases.

Also, it is worth noting that the benefits of chemo vary widely from cancer to
cancer – sometimes improving ‘short-term’ survivability by as much as 50%; but
also, in many cases, by 1% or less. For example, the statistical chances of
chemotherapy being helpful with lung cancer are less than 1 in 100, and yet
doctors often pressure their patients into utilizing, what is in this case, a
non-effective and debilitating treatment. And on top of everything else, the
success rate for chemotherapy is highly age dependent. It is much more likely to
be effective with the young who have strong immune systems, dropping to about
50/50 by age 50. And by 50/50, I don’t mean that it’s effective 50% of the time,
but rather that it’s a 50/50 call as to whether doing chemo or nothing at all is
the better option in terms of survivability. And by age 55, you’re statistically
better off doing nothing rather than subjecting yourself to chemo.

Keep in mind that whatever else you can say about chemotherapy, no one can ever
claim it addresses the cause of cancer. It merely attacks the symptom. No one,
even the most jaded doctor in the world, claims that people get cancer because
they’re suffering from a chemotherapy deficiency.

Obviously, there is only so much we can do with the current state of affairs and
we should not expect the industry to change any time soon. However, we do not
have to sit on the sidelines when it comes to our personal health and wellness
due to ignorance, money, and bureaucrats.

Solution — Take an Active Role

I always encourage people to take an active role in their health, and this is
even more important when you are dealing with a catastrophic illness such as
cancer. Ask as many questions as you can and research your specific type of
cancer to understand both the conventional and non-conventional success rates
for specific remedies. Look for strategies that strengthen the body, not weaken
it, allowing the body to heal itself. I also encourage you to read my book,
Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, which gives many suggestions for those
fighting cancer as well as preventative measures everyone should take to avoid
cancer in the first place. (You can download a free copy at www.jonbarron.org.
And while you’re there, be sure to check out the newsletter archives.) And,
finally, be careful what you read or what conclusion you draw from any study or
statistic. Know the motive behind the study. Don’t be ‘statistic-ed.’ In the
end, we are the ones responsible for our health and our bodies. It is only
prudent to look at the details.

And one final note. There is more hope than you can possibly imagine in terms of
dealing with cancer. There are at least 18 different peoples on Earth today who
do not suffer from cancer – many of these cannot record even one victim of the
disease in their entire culture. Do genetics play a role? Quite probably. But
when entire cultures are cancer free, it makes the environmental and lifestyle
connections undeniable – especially when those cancer rates change once they
move from their original environment. That means that for most of us, we can
dramatically improve our odds when it comes to getting cancer in the first
place, or curing it if we do get it simply by modifying our environmental and
lifestyle circumstances.”

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