Good Thinking are extremely concerned about fundraising appeals designed to raise money for seriously ill people to receive alternative therapies that are not considered mainstream and are typically not backed by robust evidence.
Below, we look at many of the therapies we’ve seen cited in such fundraisers (particularly for cancer patients), assess the evidence for the therapy, and examine the potential risks.
If you or someone you know is a cancer patient thinking of trying an alternative therapy, or if you are writing about an alternative cancer therapy, you might find the information below useful.
Thanks to Dr Alice Howarth from DrAlice.blog for helping to compile this factsheet. Dr Alice has a PhD in cancer research from the University of Liverpool.
It is a long comprehensive list that contains many items. You will no doubt be familiar with some, but others will be a potential surprise.
What is clear is that rather a lot of work has gone into compiling this list and so I applaud Dr Alice Howarth for taking the time to do this.
As you scan down the list, apart from the odd surprise that provokes me into thinking “That’s a thing … really!”, there is also one other rather common conclusion that keeps popping up. Basically two words … “no evidence”.
That however is generally what prefixing the word “alternative” in front of the word “medicine” usually tells you. The word that we use to describe medicine that has been proven via studies to actually work is the word “medicine” – no prefix needed. When you label it as “alternative” then that is the socially acceptable way of saying that this is stuff that is popular with some but does not actually work.
Truly weird claims
There are perhaps two other words that spring to mind – “snake oil”.
If you were asked to compose a list of alternative medicine cancer cures then some of those listed are exactly what you might guess, but one really stood out for me and completely blew my mind. I had no idea that dowsing was also supposedly (according to some) also a cancer cure.
Yes seriously, water dowsing …
Some alternative practitioners claim divination can be used to find negative energy in a patient’s home, rebalancing of this energy and therefore treat or cure cancer.
It that really a claim that some dowsers make?
Yes, here is a rel=nofollow link to the claim on the suffolk dowser website …
Can dowsing be used as a complementary therapy for cancer patients? Absolutely! Dowsing is a natural method that can certainly improve the body’s level of immunity if the house where the patient lives is suffering from Geopathic Stress, enabling them to respond better to conventional medical treatment from hospitals and medical practitioners. And Geopathic Stress was implicated directly as a problem to health in studies on cancer patients between 1929 and 2002.
A dowser can be employed to assess a home for what is known as Geopathic Stress. This is the name for the negative energies that emanate from the earth below a house
This is not simply regular nonsense, instead it is gold plated grade 1 gibberish.
When faced with claims like that you can’t help but think that they are taking the piss and that it is all satire. Alas no, the claim is quite real.
Speaking of “taking the piss” that is also quite literally on the list as a claimed cure as well. The term used for that one is “Antineoplaston” …
Invented by Stanislaw Burzynksi and promoted by his clinic in Houston, the therapy is based on the idea that peptides isolated from urine can be used to cure cancer.
There is a wikipedia page on that one. What is tragic is when you see desperate parents running fundraising campaigns and also handing over life-savings to try and fund a trip to Burzynksi’s clinic for a desperately ill child (for an example see here) and it is all a con.
OK, so that is not quite literally drinking piss, so we don’t need to worry about that being a thing on this list of cancer cures. Oh wait, it quite literally is, because what is known as Urine Therapy is also a listed claim … and yes, here is a link to a “literally drink your own piss to cure cancer” practitioner.
So what other delights and joys will we encounter on this list of potential alternative cancer cures?
Here are some more, and remember they are offered, not as stress relief or pain management, but as an actual claimed cure for cancer …
- Getting pins stuck into you (Acupuncture)
- Flaxseed oil combined with cottage cheese
- Squirting coffee up your bum
- Highly diluted substances that contain no active ingredients at all (Homeopathy)
- Removing the fillings in your teeth
- Drinking bleach (MMS)
- Somebody pretends to do surgery on you but does absolutely nothing except lighten your wallet (Psychic Surgery)
- Somebody simply waves their hands over you (Reiki)
… and just to ensure you did not miss the key point – there is no evidence that any of these actually cure cancer.
Leveraging People in Despair
Preying upon people in desperate straits is quite frankly despicable and truly egregious. Many of the practitioners for quite a few of these “cures” probably know that what they offer does not actually work at all. This is quite literally the modern day version of snake oil. By dressing it up as “Alternative” and perhaps bestowing lots of care and attention upon their victims they craft an illusion of both confidence and credibility.
What faced with a terminal illness people are in a highly emotional state and will be willing to try everything and not question anything. That is wholly and completely leveraged, hence it becomes important for resources such as the Good Thinking Society to call it all out for the fraudulent sham that it is.