Does CHEMO work?
In this Nutrition Bite, we look at the realities of battling the dreaded C-word with traditional treatment and ask: are there other options?
The following is an excerpt from the work of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
Sadly, research shows that we are losing the war against cancer.
Our technologically-advanced society is suffering from the highest rates of cancer ever seen in human history, rates that are also much higher than in less developed parts of the world.
Since 1999, cancer has surpassed heart disease and has become the leading cause of age-adjusted mortality for Americans younger than 85.
Despite more than a hundred billion dollars in cancer research— invested largely in the development of drug chemotherapy and screening and detection techniques—we have lost the war on cancer. While there has been a slight reduction of cancer-related deaths in the last 25 years, this is largely the result of the decrease in lung cancer deaths that has resulted from a reduction in cigarette smoking during this time-frame. Mortality rates for most cancers have stayed remarkably steady.
Chemotherapy has contributed to the progress made against cancer deaths from fast-growing cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer, and childhood cancers such as osteogenic sarcoma. But for the major cancers affecting most adult Americans, chemotherapy adds less than one year of disease-free life to those treated.
Science or Profits?
At present, pharmaceutical companies—not independent medical or scientific researchers—control the vast majority of research and clinical trials. We have lost the judgment and rationale of independent experts and now depend on drug companies to honestly report the risks and benefits of drugs they manufacture and sell. This is like asking the fast-food industry to be in charge of our nutritional advice. The medical studies that drug companies pay for and publicize are heavily biased in favor of the drugs they sell.
The economically powerful pharmaceutical industry and the large chemical-food conglomerates wield undue influence on government and the media. Accurate nutritional information is rarely reported because the media cannot produce stories that go against the interests of their advertisers. Instead, the media is quick to report on drug company press releases— self-serving propaganda announcing new anticancer “breakthroughs” that reinforce the myth that we are winning the war against cancer.
Most often, the so-called “benefits” described by drug companies announce improved “response rates,” for example, when tumor burden is lessened.
But, an improved response rate means little if the patient does not survive longer.
And even the cancer industry’s meager definition of survival—living 5 years beyond diagnosis—can be misleading.
Unless overall survival and quality of life are improved, it doesn’t matter if chemotherapy results in tumor shrinkage.
If “advances” in chemotherapy result in a higher percentage of people surviving for 5 years than did previously, that can be reported as “progress.”
But if most of them still die between years 5 and 10, it hardly can be called a big success, especially if the same number or more people would have survived 10 years or longer without the chemotherapy.
Unless overall survival and quality of life are improved, it doesn’t matter if chemotherapy resulted in tumor shrinkage, or if a slight increase is seen in 5-year survival statistics.
By using virtually meaningless terms like “response rates” and “disease- free survival,” researchers can report results that make chemotherapy look more effective than it really is.
Unless patients do some investigating of their own, they have no way of knowing that the glowingly optimistic results reported in the press—and too often parroted by their doctors—are designed to lead them to chemotherapy even though it is a poor choice for both quality and duration of life.
The false perception that chemotherapy offers significant life-span benefits for cancer sufferers is dramatically juxtaposed by the fact that so many more people die of cancer today than they did years ago.
In fact, a Swedish study showed that the risk of developing cancer and dying of it was three times higher in people born in the 1950s compared with those born in the 1880s.
Since 1958, cancer has increased 55 percent in men and only slightly less in women. (1)
Does Chemotherapy Work?
Let’s see how effective chemotherapy actually is with a few common cancers.
- A meta-analysis of chemotherapy for postmenopausal, estrogen receptor-positive women (the largest group of women with breast cancer) pooled the six largest studies to get the most accurate data on survival and complications. Here is what researchers concluded about the group treated with standard chemotherapy: “No significant survival benefit was observed.” (2)
- In non-small cell lung cancer (the most common type), the 5-year survival is only about 10 percent. In stage 4, when cancer has spread to distant sites, the 5-year survival is only 1.6 percent. After looking at multiple studies, it appears that treatment generally results in a very slight improved survival rate at 1 year, but this advantage disappeared at 30 months of follow-up. (3)
- Even in small cell lung cancer where chemotherapy has proven effectiveness in life extension, the benefit adds only a few months of life, not years. And during this time the patient can experience serious—even life-threatening—side effects from the treatment
Almost nothing has been done to teach people about the power of nutritional excellence to protect against cancer.
What Should You Do?
If you have cancer and are considering chemotherapy, it is wise to do a Medline search on all of the studies done on the recommended therapy, so an informed decision can be made.
If this were done, most patients likely would refuse chemotherapy.
Doctors generally hide and distort the realities of chemotherapy, talking to patients about “shrinking the cancer” and “killing cancer cells,” not mentioning the fact that the therapy has not been shown to extend life.
Every patient has to make her own decision. But if I were a woman with postmenopausal breast cancer, I would opt for surgery, without radiation and without chemotherapy, and would then pursue an aggressive nutritional protocol. I also would include antiestrogens if the tumor histology showed it to be estrogen receptor positive.
~Dr. Joel Fuhrman
To find out more about this important topic, including what to do if you already HAVE cancer…
As well as Dr. Fuhrman’s top tips to prevent cancer…