This article will no doubt shock some, especially in Port Townsend. Some thoughts first to help put context to it.
Dr. Stephen Barrett has been a tireless advocate for exposing fraud and quackery in the medical field. I have read his newsletter for years and have never found myself at odds with his opinions. I’m reposting this here not because I necessarily agree with his opinion on the ACS running this article, but because he points out some very valid questions. While I have witnessed cancer patients, including terminally ill ones, having alternative treatments and “feeling better” none of them that I witnessed ever changed the outcome from terminal to remission. And unfortunately, some of the people promoting these “therapies” are making very good money from promoting them. It is sad but true.
I personally agree with Dr. Barrett’s thoughts that if the therapy ‘makes the patient feel better’ and is not a burden on their families financial situation, then there seems to be no ‘harm’ done. But all too often these are presented as cures.
With that said, here’s the analysis by Dr. Barrett. I am underling what I believe are the key thoughts here.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has published the Society for Integrative Oncology’s Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment in the May/June 2017 issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The monograph, whose co-authors include three naturopaths and an acupuncturist, states that its “recommendations” should not be regarded as the standard of care but are warranted as “viable but not singular options for the management of a specific symptom or side effect.” (In other words, they have no effect on the course of cancer but might help some patients feel better.) The “therapies” include acetyl-l-carnitine; acupuncture; acupressure; aloe vera; ginger; ginseng; glutamine; guarana; healing touch; hyaluronic acid cream; hypnosis; laser therapy; manual lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging; massage; meditation; mistletoe; music therapy; reflexology; relaxation techniques; qigong; stress management; soy; and yoga.
In 2014, in response to an earlier edition of the guidelines, David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., noted:
Treatments that are truly effective and safe do not need the training wheels of a title like “alternative,” “complementary,” or “integrative.” They will stand on their own to scientific testing and should not be used until they have.
The real purpose of the guidelines is to use an ostensibly critical analysis buying into the false dichotomy of “integrative oncology” in order to rebrand potentially science-based modalities as “alternative” or “integrative” and to provide ammunition for advocates of “integrative oncology” to start “integrating” quackery with science-based medicine. [Gorski D. Selling “integrative oncology” as a monograph in JNCI. Science-Based Medicine, Dec 1, 2014]