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Beware phony cancer cures, say experts at 2012 World Cancer


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Have you or a loved one ever been solicited or tempted to try remedies that claim to cure cancer?

Beware phony cancer cures, say experts at 2012 World Cancer Congress

Anyone facing cancer has likely seen YouTube videos of gurus prompting patients to imagine their illness away or psychic therapists claiming to remove tumours virtually and without causing skin wounds.

When it comes to cancer, the Internet is a minefield of unproven cures. Well-meaning friends and kin send along links for dubious products or practices that promote a “cancer-free life” by using laetrile, coffee enemas, shark cartilage, rattlesnake powder, and copious amounts of juiced vegetables, bark tea and mistletoe extract.

At the 2012 World Cancer Congress — a major gathering of international cancer specialists to be held at the Palais de Congrès in Montreal this week — experts say there are no credible alternatives to science. If coffee enemas or other quack practices could prevent, attenuate or cure cancer, the medical industry would have already found a way to market them en masse.

More than 2,000 members of the international cancer community from 120 countries will be sharing best-practices and discussing the global impact of cancer, as well prevention strategies and the role of the patient in his own care.

Cancer patients turn to many coping strategies to control their disease, said cancer epidemiologist Eduardo Franco, professor and interim director of McGill University’s oncology department and director of the division of Cancer Epidemiology.

“We know that there is a strong psychological effect on emotion, and immunologic and other body responses, and you may survive longer simply because you positioned yourself to be happy with what you are doing,” said Franco, a member of the congress host organizing committee.

Evolution in therapy has turned some cancers into chronic illnesses. But some, including pancreatic and liver cancers, have a poor survival prognosis.

But dubious therapies foster false hope and cause unnecessary pain and suffering, Franco said. Among proponents of quack therapies, some are charlatans while others truly believe they’ve found a solution, Franco said.

But beware of stories of miraculous cures, because even with the most lethal of cancers, statistics show that some individuals do survive, he added.

Cure claims fail to hold up to the rigours of evidence-based medicine, whose cornerstone is the double blind, randomized trial. That’s an experimental design where neither researcher nor subject are aware of who is the control with the sugar pill and who is getting tested with the real molecule or product. Instead, they are hyped with anecdotes of survival and patient testimonials.

“There’s a lack of perception in how the scientific process works. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim, not the other way around,” Franco said.

It’s easy to understand the lure, Franco added. Cancer is a terrible disease and in desperate situations some people will sometimes resort to desperate measures.

With an estimated two out of five Canadians expected to develop cancer during their lifetimes – the young and old, the rich and poor, men, women and children – the disease represents a tremendous burden on patients, families and societies.

According to the World Health Organization, 7.6 million died of cancer in 2008. Projections suggest cancer deaths will continue to rise with an estimated 9 million people dying from cancer in 2015, and 11.4 million dying in 2030.

A major theme at the congress is prevention. Up to 40 per cent of cancers could be avoided with simple lifestyle changes — reducing cigarette and alcohol consumption — as well as by improving vaccine strategies, screening, early diagnosis and treatment, said Dr. Michel Gélinas, president and co-founder of the Fondation québécoise du cancer and president of the conference host committee.

Millions of dollars are spent on advertising tobacco, soda and fast-food, Gélinas said, rather than promoting moderation in healthy choices that could save society millions in health costs. “Governments need to see cancer in that perspective,” Gélinas said.

Cancer control is not a priority for many countries, Gélinas added. That’s why it’s important for the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to develop global strategies in the fight against cancer that could be viable around the world, regardless of a country’s wealth, he said.

Cancer is a terrible disease, Gélinas said. “Everyday in my practice medical, we see people who are worried about the evolution of their illness, above all when we tell them that conventional therapy can’t help them,” Gélinas said. “Some can be exploited by charlatans.”

The Fondation québécoise du cancer, and other reputable organizations, can suggest complementary therapies like massage that can help palliate disease.

But stay clear of fraudulent and costly remedies that have no basis in science, Gélinas said: “It’s profitable for those who offer them, and useless for their users.”

© Copyright © The Province

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/health/Bewar ... z24ko2jJrz

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