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Cancer: treatment pathways « Previous | |Next »
March 30, 2005

Our general medical health care system is faced with ever-increasing incidence of cancer. The standard treatment is based on expensive, radiation and/or toxic remedies having serious side-effects, and severely impairing the quality of life.

In the previous post on cancer I suggested that we should avoid the current situation of either orthodox biomedicine or alternative treatment. Rather than this mutually exclusive approach we need a middle pathway in which the rigorous approach of an evidence-based medicine is used to assesse and evaluate the different treatment pathways to see how effective they are, and what side effects they have.

I then added that this basic information should be publicly available. If there is a politics of cancer then it should focus on the public's rights to know about the different treatment pathways, the different treatments, their effectiveness and their negative effects.


My reason for this taking this position is that a number of so called alternative treatments are really complimentary ones. The psycho-social approaches, for instance, help patients deal with the stress of going from being a healthy person to cancer patient for the rest of their life. The need for stress management is now widely accepted because it compliments the bio-medical model's lack of nurturing and lack of care. The bio-medical model does not deal with the life of a person, since it deals only with the bodily system or the organ.

What is not readily accepted by the biomedical cancer institution is the use of dietary treatments including the use of vitamins, mineral and herbs to help the body recover from the toxic effects of conventional radiation and chemotherapy treatments. The usual reason given for the widespread no is that these treatments have the potential to pose a risk to the patients's physical well-being by interfering with the effectiveness of the drugs involved in conventional treatment.

The quick response is: 'well, what does the research on this say'? Shouldn't we looking for the best treatment package to ensure the patient's wellbeing?

We know the answer in Australia. There is no research being done. Why? Because there is no funding? Why is there no funding? At this point the excuses run out and the appeal to evidence-based medicine is quietly put to one side and an ethical principle is pulled out. It is said that we should avoid those treatments that harm the patient.

Well, what about treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy? Do not these harm the patient? Why do we not avoid those?

SO what is the solution? It is simple.

There ought to be a publicly funded national centre to:

# co-ordinate and enhance research as it relates the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, cancer-related symptons ad side-effects of conventional cancer treatment;

# help identify promising non-conventional treatments for further research

# explore non-conventional treatments in the context of evidence-based medicine.

Such institutes exist in the US. Why not Australia? Why is there not similar institutional mechanisms to fund research into complimentary treatments in Australia?

What does appears to be off the radar is immunotherapy as a treatment pathway that uses uses certain parts of the immune system to fight cancer. We understand that our immune system is effective in combating infectious diseases caused by such invading agents such as bacteria and viruses. So why cannot the body's immune system play a central role in protecting the body against cancer, in combating cancer that has already developed, and in slowing down the growth and spread of tumors?

Does not the immune system recognize and destroy even large quantities of established tumor? Can we not treat malignant diseases either with immune cells or immune-active agents that are genetically or chemically modified to optimize their cancer-fighting properties?

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| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)