Jacob Schor ND, FABNO
January 24, 2019
All too often a patient, or more likely a patient’s spouse, starts our first encounter by saying, “Ever since I’ve (or we’ve) gotten this cancer diagnosis I’ve been doing research on cancer and…..”
I try not to interrupt them right then and there. Sometimes I manage to keep my mouth shut, but sometimes I can’t help myself, blurting out my view, “Research is what scientists wearing white coats do in laboratories. Study is what students do at their desks tucked away in quiet libraries. I think what you have done is neither research or study, you’ve read through some websites.”
We are in the midst of an epidemic of misleading information, what was starting to be referred to as fake news before the term was appropriated for political purposes. In particular we are inundated with inaccurate information about medicine, especially about cancer. These inaccuracies are on both sides of the spectrum.
One recent paper examined beliefs of patients receiving palliative chemo for advanced lung or colorectal cancer. These treatments at best might extend their lives by weeks yet “…69% of patients with lung cancer and 81% of those with colorectal cancer did not report understanding that chemotherapy was not at all likely to cure their cancer.” They hoped their treatments would work to cure them when there is no rationale reason to believe so. [i]
At the same time there is a surprisingly large percentage of the population that is certain that there is a ‘natural cure for cancer.’ The American Association of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) reported in the summer of 2018, the results of a national survey. They found that 39% of Americans firmly believe that “Cancer can be cured solely through alternative therapies, without standard cancer treatment(s).” Younger people were even more certain of this. Among 18-37 year-olds, 47% believed that natural medicine could provide a cure. [ii]
Cancer patients and their family members who are eager to weigh in and offer advice have the responsibility to use accurate information even if we seem to live in a post-truth kind of world where some no longer think this is important. Maybe I’m old school, but I still believe it does.
Finding accurate information is not easy. No one trusts the drug companies that profit from selling treatments to desperate patients to not lean on the balance a bit and accentuate the positive and downplay the negative. Nor can we hold up ‘alternative practitioners’ as ethical pillars in this debate. At times, I’ve questioned our common practice of selling unproven supplements at a profit and triggered a substantial backlash rejecting the idea. Everyone seems to be driven to make money.
Where can patients turn for objective information on cancer? I often suggest they consult Ralph Moss through his website CancerDecisions.com
For the past 40 years, Moss has made a living by providing accurate evaluations of competing therapies to cancer patients. He looks at both conventional and non-conventional therapies for specific cancer types and provides his customers with up to the minute objective opinions as to their best possible options. He sells this information in the form of a written report that is prepared for the patient.
Recently Dr. Moss did something almost unheard of, he published a free book on how he researches these patient reports; basically, he shared his trade secrets. In his “Ultimate Guide to Do-It-Yourself Research,” Moss goes step by step through his own process of collecting and evaluating which therapies might be most helpful for patients. He links to his preferred references. He translates the medical jargon; he details the pitfalls of statistics that often trip would-be-researchers up and he guides the medical amateur DIYer through the literature mazes that Moss has spent his career exploring. In Ralph’s words, “I believe that my approach to evaluating cancer treatment is unusual, if not unique. For decades I have maintained an attitude of “friendly skepticism” towards all practitioners and proponents.”
Dr. Moss uses stage-3 colon cancer as the example to illustrate how he approaches his research. He digs apart the research on competing drug regimes. He makes clear just how complicated a process it is to sort out the information we want.
This isn’t really a free lunch; by the time any sensible person has read through Moss’s process, they realize what a bargain his reports are.
If you have a patient diagnosed with this type of cancer, do not make the mistake of saying, “well, here is some good news” as a lead into providing the link to Ralph’s book. While this may save them the cost of purchasing a detailed MossReport from Cancer Decisions this is still not a cancer one should describe as having a bright side.
To obtain a free copy of Ralph Moss’s do-it-yourself research guide go to:
Ralph W. Moss, PhD, has written or edited twelve books and three film documentaries on questions relating to cancer research and treatment. Moss is a graduate of New York University (BA, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1965) and Stanford University (MA, 1973, PhD, 1974, Classics). The former science writer and assistant director of public affairs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (1974-1977), for the past 40 years Moss has independently evaluated the claims of conventional and non-conventional cancer treatments. He currently writes The Moss Reports, detailed reports on the 27 most common cancer diagnoses.
His articles and scientific communications have appeared in The Lancet, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the Journal of the American Medical Association, New Scientist, Immunobiology, Pharmacological Research, Anticancer Research, Genetic Engineering News, Research in Complementary Medicine, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics and Integrative Cancer Therapies.
Moss was a founding advisor to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine (now the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NCCIH) and to the NIH Cancer Advisory Panel on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAP-CAM). He has been a member of the Advisory Editorial Board of the PDQ System of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He is a board member of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and is an advisor to Breast Cancer Action, Life Extension Foundation, RAND Corporation and Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.
Moss is also a long time contributor to the Townsend Letter
for Doctors and Patients. www.cancerdecisions.com
[i] Weeks JC, Catalano PJ, Cronin A, et al. Patients’ expectations about effects of chemotherapy for advanced cancer. N Engl J Med. 2012 Oct 25;367(17):1616-25.