Cancer Doubts .com
  Information for patients researching their options

Learn about cancer and
Talk to your doctor with confidence

  Cancer information  

01 What is cancer?
02 Cancer symptoms and screening (how cancer is detected)
03 Causes of cancer
04 Can cancer be prevented?
05 Cancer Stages
(how long do patients live?)
06 Cancer treatment and therapy (how cancer is treated)
07 Types of doctors who treat cancer
08 Choosing a doctor (or getting a second opinion)
09 Preparing for Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy
10 Cancer support (patient psychology and feelings)
11 Cancer suport - How friends can help
12 Is it important to do my own research? (or do I just follow doctor's orders)
13 Cancer information (research your treatment options)
14 Alternative and complementary treatments for cancer
15 Avoiding dubious treatments
16 How medical research is done (how to read medical research papers)
A About this site

Avoiding dubious treatments and unscrupulous companies

When looking for cancer treatments, it is important not to be misled by dubious treatments. Taking an ineffective treatment can not only do harm to your body, every day that you are not being treated properly means precious time is being lost.

Unfortunately there are a lot of dubious treatments and medicines out there. Some are sold by unscrupulous people, while others are sold by well-meaning but misled people. Many claim to be able to slow down the cancer, and some may allude to being able to cure cancer. They often cite research studies and quote medical jargon to bolster their claims, and it can be difficult for the layman to evaluate their claims. The one thing that many of these medicines/treatments have in common is that they aren't prescribed by mainstream doctors.

This doesn't mean that all non-mainstream therapies are fraudulent. Some just need some scientific R&D to become mainstream therapies. For example, in the past one of the "non scientific" traditional Chinese and Japanese treatments for cancer tumors was to drink a medicinal soup made from the Coriolus Versicolor mushroom. Medical scientists in Japan decided to study this treatment, and they discovered that certain compounds extracted from the mushroom did improve colon cancer patient survival rates. The Japanese pharmaceutical company Kureha then turned it into a medicine known as PSK, and it is now one of the mainstream treatments for cancer patients in Japan.


The key is to be able to tell the difference between something dubious and something that has potential. I have no foolproof method of doing this, but there are some guidelines that I use to discern dubious products from scientifically plausible treatments.

Medicines and treatments that have some probability of being effective usually have (1) a plausible explanation of how the medicine works on the body and how it is absorbed, and (2) studies done on a in-vivo basis (in-vivo means in the body; see the page on how medical research is conducted for an explanation of the significance of this). Unfortunately, the first is hard to assess unless you are prepared to take a crash course in cancer biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and anatomy. The next best thing I can suggest is to discuss the medicine with your doctor, who can lend a trained eye to help you assess it. But you should be aware that for professional reasons, he or she may not be able to give you a firm answer because the clinical data for non-mainstream treatments is too sparse. If a treatment does not have any scientific thesis or data to back it up, then you should consider it dubious.

The problem is to know when you have been presented with a persuasive scientific argument, and when a seller sounds very persuasive but actually has no scientific backing. Dubious treatments are often marketed by sellers who mislead people by using the 3 time-tested methods of persuasion: Ethos, Pathos and Logos. (These are classical methods of persuasion - and known from the time of Greek philosopher Aristotle, a student of the philosopher Plato)

Ethos - they make themselves appear to be authoritative figures. For example, they may quote doctors or endorsements by people wearing white lab coats. Their objective is to convince you that medical practitioners are endorsing their product.

Pathos - they try to stir up your emotions, either by trying to tug at your heartstrings, or trying to show that other people similar to you have used their product successfully. For example, they may feature interviews with people similar to yourself telling a story of how they beat cancer using their product. Unscrupulous sellers also capitalize on the patient's anxiety, especially if doctors have given them a bleak prognosis. This can cause some patients to look for an answer outside of mainstream medicine, since mainstream medicine doesn't guarantee a cure. Some sellers may suggest that mainstream science has ignored their products, or that "the arrogance/tunnel-vision of mainstream scientists" has prevented doctors from looking into their remedies. They may also allude to the possibility that mainstream pharmaceutical companies are conspiring to keep their "cure for cancer" away from the medical community, in order to fatten their profits. They may position themselves or their services as "maverick doctors" and "brave revolutionaries" who are going against an conspiratorial establishment.

Logos - they try to appeal to a logical argument. For example, they may quote a research paper that shows that their medicine kills cancer cells in a laboratory test. This may make it seem that their claims are supported by scientific evidence. However, the research that they showcase are usually taken out of context. For example, in-vitro (in a test tube) tests that show that a herb kills cancer cells tells us almost nothing from a clinical perspective. There are many bio-active compounds that work directly on cells in the test tube, but fail to work in the human body. (See the page on how medical research is conducted for more details).

Other sellers may use simplistic reasoning like "this stops free radicals, and free radicals cause cells to be damaged, so this food is good for cancer patients". The truth is that the human body is an extremely complex system of interacting molecules and cells, and interfering with one set of interactions can bring about unintended consequences. For example, it is believed that some chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells by generating and using free radicals, so any food or herb that "prevents free radicals from acting" may actually decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Present day medical science does not fully understand all the molecular and cellular interactions in our body, and I would be wary of any treatment that relies on simplistic reasoning. The human body is not a simple 1+1=2 mechanism.

If you sense that a seller is using these 3 modes of persuasion in its advertising, then you owe it to yourself to take a step back and look at the product with a cynical eye. I'm not saying mainstream companies don't use these modes of persuasion in their advertising, but the burden of proof is much higher for complementary medicines because they have not been subject to clinical trials and approved by the FDA for cancer treatment. You need to objectively look at the evidence to judge whether it is likely to help you. In effect, you are becoming a mini-FDA and doing your own "drug analysis and approval" checks. (Be careful of claims that a herb or a supplement is "FDA approved". The FDA does not regulate health supplement companies, so any claims of "FDA approval" don't mean much)

I strongly recommend that you take mainstream therapy as the first line of treatment . Then if you like, explore using complementary medicines as a supplement. I also highly recommend talking to your doctor about any complementary medicine that you want to start on.



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Medical information for cancer I am not a medical professional; please consult your doctor for a medical opinion. This is my attempt to explain cancer to anyone who is affected by it. If this site helps just one person, then it will have served its purpose.


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