If you are being diagnosed with cancer, invariable you will be told to undergo a surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, etc. These seemed to be the only so-called “proven” paths to take. Other paths — the alternatives and complementary therapies, according to your doctors are suspect, “unproven” and outright hocus pocus. This is also the kind of message you are always bombarded with even in the mass media. Throughout the world — may it be in the developed or developing countries — the same perception is being cultivated and “sold” to the general public. Dr. David Brownstein, in the foreword of the book: Avoiding Breast Cancer, wrote: “The pharmaceutical companies want us to believe that a cure for cancer will be found by a “magic-bullet” drug. This will never occur.”
Reading through numerous books and research papers on cancer treatment, I could not help but feel disappointed. Much have been written about a combination of some poisons being better than another combination of some other poisons. Data were presented — but massaged, to yield “statistically significant” results that meant nothing much in terms of cure, survival or preservation of quality of life. Unfortunately most of these “educated” people are playing their games following the same rules that aim to preserve the status quo and safe-guarding their self-interests. Their views are as dogmatic and solidly set as the concrete. Dissenting views and ways are often not tolerated and even punished by loss of right to practise the profession.
Fortunately, in spite of this, the sky does not remain gray all the time. Sometimes, in some corner of this world there are brave and honest individuals who would stand up, do and say things that others would not dare say or do. Ask your doctors: “what is the contribution of chemotherapy to your cancer cure”? What kind of answers do you get?
“Oh, you have a 50:50 chance. If you don’t go for chemotherapy, you have three months and you die.”
Or, “If you do chemotherapy you have a 90% chance.”
Do not be misled and do not misunderstand. Ask them what is the meaning of chance? The chance of curing cancer or chance of dying from the treatment? Don’t be afraid to ask, even if this is done at the risk that you may get chased out of your doctor’s office (some patients told me that such thing happened to them). It is better to get chased out of his office then to get chased out of this world!
If you seek an easy, ready-made canned-answer, get it from your doctor. Unfortunately, “instant-noodle” type answers could lead to disappointments later. In life, I always believe that anything good never come easy. You need to do some hard and serious work to know how to do better.
Do you want to know what is the contribution or exact role of chemotherapy to your cancer cure?
If you want to know the truth, read this article: “The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies.” The report of this study is exactly what cancer patients have been looking for. We have been waiting for such an answer — what exactly is the contribution of chemotherapy to overall survival in cancers?
The three authors of the paper are: (1) Graeme Morgan, Associate Professor and radiotherapist at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. (2) Robyn Ward, a senior specialist in Medical Oncology and Associate Professor of Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. She is also a member of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. (3) Michael Barton, Research Director Associate Collaboration for Cancer Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Liverpool Health Service, Sydney.
Without doubt, these researchers are professionals of great repute. They know what they are saying. Their opinions are just worthy, if not more valuable, than any doctors that you have consulted for your cancer.
They publish their work in the Journal of Clinical Oncology Volume 16, Issue 8, December 2004, pages 549-560. This is a peer-review well-respected medical journal. Their paper was submitted for publication on 18 August 2003. It was revised and finally accepted for publication on 3 June 2004. This means the paper has been scrutinized by fellow doctors and has undergone the normal peer-review process. It is not a back-door, arm-twisting way to get into the pages of the medical journal. Given the above, you and I (and even doctors!) should not have any doubt as to the credibility and validity of what they say in their research paper.
Why do they publish such a paper?
I cannot give you that answer, but I can only guess. In a radio interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Dr. Morgan was asked this question: “Is this, I wondered, an in house battle, the revenge of the radiotherapist?” Dr. Morgan replied: “Well, one can cynically say that but the reason I did was that we were sick and tired of hearing about these new drugs and it wasn’t really cementing into anything. And the reason for my doing that paper was to really show that there hasn’t been any improvement in survival, or the improvement has been very, very modest despite all these new drugs and new combinations and bone marrow transplants.”
Albert Einstein said: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, But because of those who look on and do nothing.” This world is fortunate to have people like Professor Morgan and colleagues to speak their mind. We salute them.
Is there anything wrong with the paper?
There is nothing wrong with the paper and the data presented. Their study was based on data from randomised-controlled trials (RCTs — the gold standard of medical evidence) published from 1 January 1990 to 1 January 2004. Data were also obtained from the cancer registry in Australia and USA. The contribution of chemotherapy to survival of those over 20 years old and who suffered from 22 major cancers were studied.
If there is any thing wrong at all with this paper, it is because it tells the whole truth about chemotherapy. And truth hurts. The authors did not “sing” the same tune as the majority of the flock. That is the difference (or the wrong!).
What did they say?
The absolute real-life data that this article carries is most shocking: “The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.” In short, they said that the contribution of chemotherapy is not more than 3%.
Can this be true?
Well, they are the experts. And they said so — loud and clear. Indeed some doctors in Australia were angry. People said the paper was “misleading and unhelpful.” The editorial of the Australian Prescriber (The emperor’s new clothes — can thermotherapy survive? 29:2-3. 2006) quoted Professor Michael Boyer, head of medical oncology at the Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney as saying: “The fact is that from a patient’s perspective they are not really interested in how much chemotherapy contributes to the cure of all patients … I don’t think this paper helps from a patient’s perspective.”
Medical experts like to claim that they understand patients better than the patients themselves. So they give authoritative pronouncement on patients’ behalf. I beg to differ. I think patients know themselves better. Do you agree that you are not interested to know how much contribution chemotherapy provides to your cancer cure? To me, this is the very answer each and every patient wants to know before he/she is subjected chemotherapy. But unfortunately, no such answer is ever provided. And if patients ask too much questions, they will be scolded or chased out of their doctors’ offices.
In the same radio interview with ABC, Professor Michael Boyer was again quoted as saying: “the fact is that if you start … saying how much does chemotherapy … the numbers start creeping up …If you pull it altogether that number probably comes up to 5 % or 6%. I guess what’s important is that it doesn’t go up to 50% or 60%.” This is indeed mind-boggling. The percentage of 2.3% was disputed. According to Professor Boyer it could be 5% to 6%.
Do we need to split hairs? What is so different between 2.3% and 6% — is that a big enough or meaningful difference at all? If you ask any cancer patient what is the difference between a 3 % chance of cure and a 6% chance of cure, most of them may just say it is “peanuts”. If you tell cancer patients your chemo-treatment is only contributing to 3% or 6% of their cure — I would guess MOST patients would just disappear and not see their oncologists ever again!
But to some “tunnel visioned” statisticians and researchers, 2.3% and 6% is a big “statistical” difference and the difference is significant (to use the scientific jargon). You can “massage” the data to say this. If you do chemo-X, you get 2%, if you do chemo-Y you get 4%. You can twist the picture and say chemo-Y is 100% better than chemo-X. That is how “educated people” massage their data to make it appear and sound good.
So what is your verdict?
Would you go for chemotherapy knowing that the benefit is only about 3%. Human beings differ in our perspectives. So be your own judge.
What do we do with such truth?
There seems to be a bit of hoo-haa in Australia, because it involved work done in Australia. But for the rest of the world — in the US, UK, Europe, etc. nobody bothers to know or comment. This NEW truth is of no importance or consequence. The truth, as often done, if it clashes with the Establishment, may just be given a quick burial. Nothing is said even by the so called “independent mass media”.