“Use of Alternative Medicine for Cancer and Its Impact on Survival”

A blog reader, thank you!, told me about a study (same title as my post) that was recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and that has been picked up by a whole slew of online news sources and blogs, some with ominous titles such as “Alternative medicine kills cancer patients” or “Alternative medicine can kill you.”

So what’s all the fuss about? Should we be concerned?

Here’s the gist: a team of four Yale researchers carried out an observational case control study, comparing 280 cancer patients who had chosen to use ONLY alternative therapies to 560 patients who had instead received conventional cancer treatments. They noted how many patients lived for at least five years and found that those in the AM group had a greater risk (about 50%) of dying compared to those in the CCT group.

The researchers therefore concluded that using alternative instead of conventional medicine to treat “nonmetastatic,” “curable” cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, increases a patient’s likelihood of dying.

Here’s the link to the abstract: http://goo.gl/Gtx5Gp

Someday, I’d like to read the full study, but for this post, I relied on online news sources, reliable ones, which I normally would prefer not to do…but I don’t have much time right now, and I have lots to say, so here is one of the sources I used, a Yale source: http://goo.gl/GXc5jx

As you may have gathered, I have a few (big) issues with this study. Here goes:

First and foremost, I have a question for my blog-reading statistics experts: shouldn’t the two groups have been the same in size? I mean, the researchers compared a group of 280 patients to one that was twice its size = 560 patients. Doesn’t size matter sometimes??? [Okay, I just read online that a sample size imbalance doesn’t mean that the study isn’t accurate, from a statistical point of view, even though comparing groups of equal size is preferable. But the statistics article I read online was referring to minor differences in size, not huge ones, as in this study, so I’m keeping my question on size…]

Secondly, and more importantly, the researchers did NOT include any DATA concerning the TYPE of alternative treatments chosen by the group of AM patients. We don’t know if these folks were using homeopathic remedies or herbal extracts, if they were juicing all their food, or if they were carrying so-called healing stones around in their pockets. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that this sort of data is absolutely CRUCIAL to a study like this one…

Why? Because alternative treatments are not all the same. There is an enormous difference between waving crystals in the air (or whatever you do with crystals…I have to admit I have no idea) AND taking a scientifically-backed extract that has been tested in clinical trials.

Not to mention all the revolting quacks and charlatans who make millions by exploiting the understandable fears that we, cancer patients, have of suffering and dying. What if all of these patients had been following the advice of quacks and charlatans? 

I was annoyed by the fact that these researchers were able to find out that the AM folks tend to be wealthier and better educated than the CCT folks, but didn’t make the extra effort to provide any data on the types of alternative treatments used by the former.

And so they chose to lump “alternative medicine” into one big category. Well, why the heck not? It makes things so much easier, doesn’t it? And besides, who would question a study like this one, whose results, based on a small sample (when you think about it), have provided all these juicy, scary headlines? Not very many people, methinks. Indeed, I haven’t yet found ONE SINGLE criticism online…Not one.


Okay, let’s move on to a rather interesting note: the researchers identified the types of cancer considered in their study as “curable.” I stopped short when I read that. Curable? I thought only testicular cancer was actually curable.

Well, again, if you read the statistics, as I did this morning, you will find that many types of cancer are considered to be “cured” if they don’t come back for a certain number of years (five years, I think) after conventional cancer treatments. And so the cancers in this study are considered “curable” IF caught and treated early on.

But what happens after the five year benchmark? Hmmm…

And another consideration: how are the folks in the AM group doing compared to those in the CCT group?

What’s their QUALITY OF LIFE (QOL), for starters?

Speaking of which…a personal note: my father-in-law, who was diagnosed with invasive melanoma in 2010, was considered to be a total success story by his oncologist, even though the conventional treatments he’d undergone had left him with terrible side effects that condemned him to a prolonged and agonizing death. But for conventional medicine, my father in law was “cured.”

Anyway, I don’t want to get into that. It’s not the point of this post. It’s just that this “cure” business drives me absolutely bonkers, sometimes, since it doesn’t take into account so many important aspects, such as QOL, as I mentioned above. I don’t know about you, but QOL is verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry important to me…

I’d like to end this post, which has gotten me rambling a bit all over the place (sorry about that!!!), with a few more, perhaps obvious!, comments.

These data-based studies are supremely annoying…and meaningless…useless, really, since a lot of what I consider to be important information (QOL, etc.) on the patients is missing. Totally missing.

Just my opinion, as usual!!!

P.S. By the way, I could mention the fact that two of the four researchers had received grants from companies providing conventional cancer treatments, and one researcher had a grant from a large cancer treatment center. But I won’t. (Oh, gee, I guess I just did! 😉 )

Piano piano…

I know this is not a cat blog, and I apologize for publishing another cat-related post, but right now my life is revolving around my eldest cat, Piccolo, who has been doing very poorly lately and needs A LOT of attention and care. These days, all I can think about is Piccolo, and all of my research is for him.

And so here I am with another update.

After several, simply horrible days (I’ve lost count, but it has been ten days, more or less), during which, with VERY heavy hearts, we went so far as to consider the unthinkable–that is, the possibility of having Piccolo put to sleep, aghhhh!–this morning he totally surprised me. All of a sudden, in fact, while I was preparing his food AND my cappuccino in the kitchen, I heard a plod plod plod sound in the hall, and there he was. He’d come down the stairs after me. And he wound himself around my legs.

Just like old times. 

I was so happy that I forgot all about my cappuccino ( = a MUST, as soon as this gal gets up in the morning!!! 😉 ), sat on the floor and fed him some wet food…Then he proceeded to go on a plod plod plod tour of the dining room, finally heading down another flight of stairs into the room underneath the kitchen where the cats like to hang out in the summer, mainly because it’s out of the way, and they can lie in the hot sun (go figure…!!!).

After a while, though, he followed me all the way back upstairs (two long flights of stairs).

That’s what we and the vets were/are looking for: signs of improvement…signs that he is stable, not getting worse…especially, signs that he is NOT suffering. He still spends most of the day in his litter box, but he moves around, too.

As we say in Italian, piano piano ( = little by little).

At least, we hope so…!!!

Blindness and laser therapy

We spent almost the entire day Thursday at the vet clinic with Piccolo, our (now) eldest cat. He was recently (last month) diagnosed with spondyloarthrosis, a joint disease of the vertebral column. It’s a very painful, degenerative condition…

Thanks to my research online, however, for the past two weeks he has been having laser therapy at the vet clinic, three times a week. These sessions have proven to be extremely beneficial: he’s no longer in pain, which means he’s able to walk around the house, stairs included.

I’ve also been giving him a daily dose of cortisone and, until a couple of days ago (when all hell broke loose, as you will read below), a bit of curcumin, the same C3 Complex that I take, mixed in with his food. I will resume the curcumin this evening, now that things have settled down a bit…

Okay, so here’s what happened: about a week ago, perhaps a bit longer (it seems like a century ago to me!), I noticed that he didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He wouldn’t look into my eyes, for example, not even when I was at eye level. In short, he didn’t seem all there. In the beginning, I thought it might be because of the pain from his spondylosis…but when this “space cadet” condition persisted, I asked the vets to check his eyesight.

A few days ago the vet ophthalmologist confirmed my suspicions, unfortunately: Piccolo is completely blind in one eye, his right one, and almost completely blind in his left eye; he sees just enough to avoid obstacles.

But that isn’t it. The following occurred just a few nights ago, Wednesday night to be precise: Piccolo began walking in circles. Stefano and I knew something was terribly wrong, so we took him to the vet clinic first thing in the morning. Our vet did a few tests and confirmed that it must have been caused by some sort of neurological problem and set up a CAT scan for the following afternoon.

The good news is that the scan was negative for brain tumors or anything life-threatening. In fact, the vets found very little that would explain Piccolo’s sudden (and almost complete) blindness. They suspect it was caused by something like a TIA or mild stroke that might heal a bit in time, and that is definitely good news, of course. Since there is really nothing wrong with his eyes, nothing that would explain the blindness, according to the ophthalmologist, it is in fact possible that some day he might be able to regain a bit of his sight. Or not.

His blood tests have also improved since July. Definitely good news, there.

An aside: we spent so much time in the vet clinic on Thursday (eye tests and blood tests in the morning, and then the CAT scan and his laser therapy in the afternoon/evening) that we came to know some of the furry or feathery patients…and their humans, too, of course.

And some of the stories we heard on Thursday made me realize that, in spite of these difficult furry times, we have been very, indeed VERY lucky. Unlike other folks, in fact, we’ve never really had to deal with any major health problems with our cats until recently. Well, come to think of it, there have been a couple of things in the past (mainly with Piccolo, as it were), but we managed to get past them without too much heartbreak.

Anyway, case in point: on Thursday afternoon, at one point, a distraught young man came out of one of the examining rooms holding his adorable 11-month-old kitty. I heard him utter the words “chemo…useless…transfusions haven’t worked…” After he’d left, we learned that this poor little kitty had a fulminating type of cancer (blood cancer, I daresay) with a dire prognosis. The kitty had already had three blood transfusions…I forget now if she’d had some chemo, too, but at any rate, nothing had worked. But since she was still so young and alert, and in fact she looked just fine to me, poor dear, her human had made the decision not to have her euthanized. He took her home…to die. I asked the clinic’s secretary if the kitty would suffer. She said, no, that wouldn’t happen.

So sad…

Unlike this young man, at least we’ve had many happy years with our beloved cats. No cancer, no horrible deaths at a young age, blablabla. And, as I said, Piccolo, who is now more than 14 years old, will probably get a bit better, in time, with curcumin, cortisone, and a specific brain neuron-healing product that contains, among other things, fish oil and resveratrol…eh.

I’d like to end my post with a positive note. Early this morning I woke up and found all the cats on alert because of a thunderstorm. Piccolo was restless and wandering around, too.  Well, to my surprise, he walked up to me, resting his head against my leg, for the first time in days and then followed me around as I checked the windows to make sure it wasn’t raining in. I reached down to pet him and then spent several minutes rubbing and scratching him…He didn’t purr (he hasn’t purred for days, unfortunately), but he seemed content enough. And that is when I began feeling that we’d turned a corner. Finally.

He also slept a lot today, for the first time since we brought him home on Thursday evening.

One last, obvious thing: the world is full of blind cats, and Piccolo is not even completely blind. So I’m sure he will figure it out, and we will do our best to help him.

Everything is going to be fine…

The Daily Mail article on Dieneke, curcumin, myeloma…

I should have posted this link (see below) days ago, but ever since we lost our eldest cat, Puzzola, practically all my free time has been devoted to taking care of, and doing research for, Piccolo (the big black and white cat in my header photo), who, at age 14, has unfortunately been diagnosed with spondyloarthrosis, a very painful, degenerative condition of the spine…

But this will be fodder for another post, since I have a question for those of you who have pets…

Today my focus is instead on Dieneke, my longtime blog reader whose oncologists recently published her case study (see my May 30 2017 post). As a result of that, she was interviewed by a reporter from the Daily Mail (UK), and the article was published on July 24.

I was and am extremely pleased about this for two reasons:

  1. curcumin has really worked for Dieneke…and it always makes me so happy to think about all the blog readers who have benefited from taking this extract (or other things, too, for that matter…think of blog reader TAB, for example…).
  2. her recent “stardom” has enabled her to to reach out and help others…And that is wonderful!

Here is the link to the Daily Mail article (with photos), which, by the way, has been picked up by a slew of other news sources online and has thus gone VIRAL, how about that, eh…: goo.gl/wMzJ7e. Fantastic.

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

And again, THANK YOU, Dieneke: you are an inspiration to so many, including yours truly! 🙂