Sunday, 15 April 2018

Metal Nurse: Cancer quackery and the vultures that peddle them

There are few things that gets my blood boiling like cancer quackery. I am not going to pretend that I am as knowledgeable as the revered oncology surgeon Orac over at Respectful Insolence. But during both my professional time as a nurse and studying as a student nurse I have come across my fair share of despicable behaviour from people who proclaim themselves as some sort health care professionals, especially when it comes to cancer. Cancer is serious business, it is not something to take lightly. I abhor these vultures who flock around those who have been diagnosed with cancer, and worse still when they flock around the family and whisper such nonsense like "Gerson Therapy works better", "They are too acidotic, bicarb will cure them" and so on and so forth. They convince patients that evidence-based medicine cannot help but that faith-based healings, such as herbal medicine and homoeopathy, will. Then when the patient dies from their cancer they wash their hands of them and say that "Science does not know everything". Leaving a trail of destruction and sorrow in their path, whilst sowing seeds of doubt regarding real medical professionals who then have to pick up the pieces.

These vultures need to be stopped.

One of the main points to keep in mind regarding cancer is that there are at least 100 different types of cancers known. Each with their own pathophysiology's, each with their own characteristics and each with different ways of treatment. So when you see someone that claims that they can cure cancer or know how. Ask them which type of cancer, then ask them how.


Chronicle Flask
Thankfully, Cancer Research UK has got several articles debunking common cancer myths. One of the ones I have come across rather repeatedly is that acid environment causes cancer. So people should eat alkaline food. Like... Uhm... Lemons? Really? Lemons?! Yeah, lemons. That famous alkaline fruit. With pH of 2.0, wait... you mean that is not how it works? Somehow the proponents of alkaline diet to cure cancer suggest that lemon becomes alkalotic when you digest it. That somehow gastric acid (pH of 1.0 - 2.0) cancels out the citric acid. I am not sure what biology, or chemistry classes these quacks have been going to but they need to get a refund for that.

The body self-regulates its acid-alkaline level. The body maintains a very strict pH of 7.35 - 7.45. Go below that and you go into acidosis and go above that and you go into alkalosis. Both can and will kill you. A glass of lemon water is not going to do anything to shift it either way.

And honestly guys. The same goes for Bicarbonate of Soda. That excellent baking ingredient and cleaning material. The same doofuses who talk about cancer being acidic also advocate that people eat a whole load of Bicarb. You might neutralize you gastric acids for short period, and given the quantities, you would have to eat in order to do anything to cancer cells you would also neutralize your vital statistics.

XKCD: Cells

I do have a lot of people on my FB friend list and a lot of them are well-meaning. But sometimes they share memes that are more harmful than helpful. I have seen a lot of people share memes and quackery articles that usually have something to do with 'XYZ kills cancer cells, scientismints prove!'. The problem with that is that ANYTHING will kill cancer cells in a petri dish, including washing up liquid. You are not going to cure cancer with washing up liquid. In vitro studies can be interesting, but sadly do not translate into the real complex systems like the human body. For example, a popular meme walks about cannabis killing cancer. Again at Cancer Research provides an excellent article laying out the truth regarding Cannabis, it uses in cancer treatment and what current evidence says about it. Cannabis has been found to be very useful in managing nausea, pain, anxiety and other side effects from the cancer treatment. But it is still not the cure for cancer.

Then there is this thing that cranks want to discuss called Vitamin B17. Can I just clear things up? There is no such thing as Vitamin B17. What these con people are referring to is a substance better known as amygdalin. Amygdalin is a perfectly natural compound which is found in apricot kernels, lima beans, clover, peach stones and many many more. When consumed amygdalin converts to cyanide. It is not a vitamin. It will kill you, I suppose in a way it does kill cancer.

What people sometimes have to bear in mind when they read miracle stories about cancer is the phrase Spontaneous Remission. Basically this is where cancer starts to improve for no discernible reason, it does happen. But it happens really, really seldom. Currently the statistics surrounding this is 1 in 100,000. If you know someone who this has happened to then be happy for them, but be vary of any talk about alternative therapies.

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