Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Matt's MOvember Message: The Cancer Conspiracy

Just 40 years ago, science fiction writers prophesized a world where computers are an integral part of an advanced, intelligent society.  By the 1990's, urban legends filled our AOL in-boxes and the information super highway has since delivered us more nonsense than we could imagine.  Conspiracy theories are now so rampant that “Flat-Earthers” again walk among us.

                I’m quite in the middle of it.  As a career cop (civilian and military), Freemason, amateur astronomer, and pilot, I have quite a view of the conspiracy freak show.  I’m so in-the-know that I’ve even been attacked by Alex Jones.  My role as a cancer survivor has opened channels to another legion of foil-hatted keyboard warriors, but these people can actually be dangerous.

                At best, the pipeline of useless information is disheartening or depressing for patients.  Cancer patients are often the target of sheeple-wakers in their circle of family or friends.  The conspiracy theorist has no empathy for the stress and treatment-ravaged mind and selfishly adds a few more bricks of unnecessary load to an already-full wheelbarrow.  I’ve seen weakened people drained of hope because they were convinced, in their vulnerable state, that they’re victims of an evil underground.  At worst, people have made decisions about their treatment that causes harm or dramatically shortens their life.

                The root of all conspiracy theories is emotion.  A cancer diagnosis brings extreme limits of fear, depression, and anger.  Chemotherapy and other drugs intensify the effects. When we’re in emotional or physical pain, we tend to blame others.  Somehow our problems are made a little easier when we see ourselves as a powerless victim. 

                I’m a tough sell on pseudoscience and conspiracy.  Show me motives, connections, and patterns.  I want to see a story so tight that I will trust the life of a loved one or myself to it.  So far, I remain unsold on departures from conventional cancer treatment.  I personally know several people cured of cancer by accepted treatment, and zero who have survived by other means.  Let’s take a look at some of the more popular internet cancer chatter and put it to test.

                I’m going to generalize several of the reigning champions of cancer conspiracy theories into one statement:  There is a cheap, naturopathic cure for cancer, but THEY are suppressing it because it’s making them rich.

                I’ve never had a conspiracy theorist clearly explain who “they” are.  In this one, they often claim the medical community in general, but the pharmaceutical industry is always on the suspect list.  First, the medical community is simply too large to support a widespread fraud against a large body of people.  Our system is certainly broken in places, but there is no possibility that millions of researchers, physicians and their support system are suppressing a South American fruit that cures cancer.

                We’re famous for expensive drugs in the United States.  We love the stuff, too.  It’s on TV.  One commercial sells it, and the next helps you sue the manufacturer and your doctor for side effects.  Right here in ‘Murica, you can go to a doctor, be cured of cancer, then sue for millions along with other patients because your hair fell out and didn’t grow back.  Combine this with the high cost of producing, mixing and administering chemotherapy to a relatively small body of patients, many of whom are elderly or diagnosed late-stage and won’t survive to pay the bill.  It’s an expensive market. 

How many social media memes have you seen that claim a natural cure for erectile dysfunction that is being suppressed by evil entities?  None.  We see a lot of snake oil in the ED world, but no one rails against Viagra or Cialis. It's the only treatment that works.

                I have many friends in the medical field.  These people are angels who dedicated their professional lives to healing.  They deserve to be paid well because they carry a heavy burden in their hands and hearts.  Cancer patients with financial means choose their treatment based on success.  We will seek the best proven treatment at any cost.

Cannabis.  There is no way to get through this post without talking about weed, so let’s get this over with.  It’s time to shut the **** up about weed.  Cannabis has been a part of medicine for a long time.  It’s been used to treat side effects of conventional cancer therapy, and some recent discoveries in treatment of neurological disorders have turned many heads, including the medical community and lawmakers. It wasn’t a treatment option for me, but I connected with a number of patients who relied on cannabis to curb side effects, including pain, nausea, and loss of appetite.  I resorted to conventional drugs for these symptoms, but eventually discontinued them in favor of the original symptoms.

                While there’s been some promising research at times, there’s no proof that cannabis will cure cancer.  The reality of the issue is that people enjoy using it, while another group of people think it’s heroin.  Somewhere in the battle the green stuff has been raised to medical miracle in order to chastise detractors.  

                Please, before the angry replies come in, read on to see what we’re looking for in terms of proof of a cure. 

                Have you heard of that one guy in Greece who was curing cancer?  THEY assassinated him for it because the evil medical empire couldn’t be outdone.  I heard this story about six times during my treatment.  About half the time the person says they personally knew the patient, but no specifics about their disease.  The locale varies from Greece to South America and other places.  A bit of Google-Fu will turn up some serious quackery.  Revenge for being defrauded seems more of a likely motive for murder than a government soft-target job.

                The baking soda cure was the most surprising to me.  The gist of this cure is that cancer survives in an acidic environment.  Whatever you’re doing as a sheeple (diet, conventional medicine, etc.) is making your body acidic and cancer is thriving.  By choking down baking soda or some specific diet, you’re creating a pH balance where cancer can’t survive.  This ignores the fact that everything leaves the stomach in an acidic state, and enough pH shift to kill cancer would kill you.  Again, before the nasty reply, please read on.

                Cancer feeds on sugar, so go low-carb and starve it out.  I had my doubts about this one since I was a low-carb guy for a couple of years before diagnosis.  I think the PET-CT test is the origin for this one.  The PET scan involves starving the patient for a bit, then injecting them with a carbohydrate infused contrast.  Cancer does, in fact, primarily uptake carbohydrates.  When this happens, the contrast is retained in the cancer cells and they “light up” on the scan.  The problem is that everything else in your body consumes carbohydrates, and it’s impossible to starve the cancer without starving your body.  Imagine trying to rid your house of mice by not feeding your family.  This thinking does have some truth, however.  Being smart about carbohydrate intake and avoiding sugar and excess white starches will lead to better general health, which reduces the risk of many cancers.  Should you get cancer anyway, you’ll be in better condition to put up a hard fight.

                People love to say, “THEY just cut, poison, or burn it out” as a means of implying there’s never been an attempt to treat any other way.  Next time that argument pops up, drop proton therapy or immunotherapy on them and ask what they know about it.  This is a clear indicator that the speaker doesn't understand the advance of cancer treatment.  A relative had the same cancer as mine over a decade ago, and there was only one treatment option.  Fortunately, it worked and she's still with us.  When I was diagnosed in 2013, there were more options and higher survival rates.  I personally experienced advances made during my treatment.  For all the claims made by the cancer cure counter-culture, they forget a couple of basic facts that render many alternative treatments useless.

                Cancer is not a foreign invader, it is an uncontrolled growth of cells.  While these cells are abnormal in their behavior, they’re not foreign like a virus or bacteria.  Effective treatment usually targets these cells by the mechanism by which these cells reproduce, which is very similar to how other cells in the body reproduce.  Normal cells in the hair follicles, digestive system, and skin reproduce in a similar manner, causing side effects like hair loss and nausea.  If all goes well, the treatment is tougher on the diseased cells than the healthy cells.  Creating a metabolic or chemical condition with alternative method would produce similar side effects if it was actually working.

                There are over 200 forms of cancer.  There is no single treatment effective on all of them.  We should be skeptical of any treatment that claims to cure cancer without specificity.  Some are highly curable, some don’t respond to any treatment. 

                 Demand proof.  I wrote this post because I know someone who chose alternative therapy because they believe what they read on the internet.  A common thread to miraculous alternative is the absence of an accompanying surveillance.  I see blog posts and clickbait articles claiming cures and effective alternative treatment.  In reality, this would be such a breakthrough that someone would be willing to undergo testing and surveillance to share with the rest of the world.  Sadly, there’s nothing like that out there.  In a recent search, the best I could find was a woman holding before-and-after pictures, claiming they’re scans showing how some miracle removed cancer from her body.  Many of the claimed treatments (cannabis, in particular) were evaluated in scholarly medical tests with promising results with some promise, but didn’t make the cut when the efficacy was compared to conventional treatment.  I’m a participant in a medical study, and after dealing with the screening, interviewing, forms, and data involved, I’m certainly more likely to believe a study from M.D. Anderson than a cannabis enthusiast. 

                By no means am I discouraging anyone from using alternative treatment in addition to proven therapies.  Modern medicine readily acknowledges the benefit to many therapies considered to be alternative or holistic, and encourages them to be used along with their accepted, effective treatment.  Some top cancer treatment hospitals have acupuncture clinics and oncological massage.  

                Don’t propagate false information.  If you wouldn’t choose it for yourself or a loved one, don’t broadcast bad data in social media.  If someone is diagnosed with cancer, don’t bombard them with bad information.  They’re not in a state to deal with nonsense.  Support treatment that has been proven effective.

                This is something I wish I never had to research.  I spent many hours grinding through medical journals, testimonials, web sites, and talking to physicians and other patients.  I found no truth to the hype.  I do hope that "one simple trick" is out there that will rid the world of cancer, but it doesn't exist.  Should cancer hit me again, and a holistic treatment cures me, expect a public release of every piece of my medical record and the accompanying study.  


  1. I'm glad you chose this topic because I've been curious to know your viewpoint on the "Wooniacs", especially being a cancer survivor yourself. Thank you for sharing this!!

  2. That's the anti-GMO crowd, right? Everything is GMO, especially the weed they smoke. Like aspartame, I doubt there's a problem with very moderate consumption. I do believe there's an issue with the amounts we consume. Remember when juice glasses were 4 ounces? You'll get a pint of OJ in a restaurant now, and that much fructose without the fiber of the fruit is like eating a bowl of sugar. A GMO orange isn't harmful, but you'll wind up dealing with the fruits of diabetes and obesity, which includes cancer.