31 Chemotherapy – Fact or Fiction.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix
Hi and welcome to the Cancer Secrets podcast. I am your host and guide, Dr. Jonathan Stegall. Cancer is like a thief who has come to steal, kill and destroy. I have personally seen it wreak havoc on patients, friends and even my own family. But I am on a mission to change the cancer paradigm. Who? The practice of integrative oncology cancer treatment that integrates the best of conventional medicine with the best of alternative therapies backed by science and personalized to each patient. You need a positive voice you can trust. This podcast will share valuable information to give you practical hope for a better outcome. So I invite you to join me on this journey as we seek to change the cancer paradigm together.
Hello and welcome back to the Cancer Secrets Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Jonathan Stegall. This is season three and episode number 31. In today's episode, we will be discussing chemotherapy fact versus fiction. I'll be answering some burning questions you've probably had about chemotherapy. Does chemotherapy even work? Would oncologists take chemotherapy if they themselves had cancer? If you're new to the show, please go back and listen to my introductory episode to learn more about me and my vision for this podcast. As always, we encourage you to listen with a loved one or friend. Learning and enjoying the show with a community will be more impactful than doing so alone. Today's show is going to be a great one as we discuss the reality of chemotherapy and oncologists view of it. Several years ago, there was a widely circulated article on the Internet which made its rounds on social media. It was titled Berkeley Doctor Claims People Die from Chemotherapy, Not Cancer. A sizzling headline write. The article featured quotes attributed to a doctor Hardin Jones, a former professor of medical physics and physiology at the University of California, Berkeley. He said that chemotherapy is a sham and it doesn't work 97% of the time. He also said that people who refuse chemotherapy live on average 12 and a half years longer than people who do receive chemotherapy. He also stated that people who accepted chemotherapy die within three years of diagnosis and a large number die immediately after a few weeks. He went on to say that the only reason doctors prescribe chemotherapy is because they make money from it.
A video accompany the article. In this video, Dr. Peter Glidden, a naturopathic doctor, cited the work of Dr. Jones and stated that chemotherapy kills an average of 97% of cancer patients. The article was a nice compilation of many of the claims frequently made about chemotherapy and oncology in general, including the insinuation that chemotherapy doesn't work and that oncologists only recommend it because they profit from it. So what's true here and what isn't? First, let's start with Dr. Hardin Jones. He isn't a current scientist, as this article would have us believe. In fact, he died in 1978. Most of his thoughts on the topic of cancer were published in the 1950s and 1960s. He gave a presentation in 1969 based on the research from the 1920s through the 1950s. Now, let's be honest. Our understanding of cancer was quite primitive then. Our knowledge of what cancer is, how it grows, and how to best treat it has grown by leaps and bounds since then. For example, the five year survival rate for breast cancer in the studies he cited was only 25%. That's quite poor. Today, the five year survival rate from breast cancer is 80%. Night and day. Interestingly, chemotherapy was just coming about as a cancer treatment in the 1950s. So pretty much all of the studies he cited were prior to the advent of chemotherapy. And even the studies that did include chemotherapy were very limited in scope. And again, we were very early in our understanding and usage of chemotherapy at that time.
So let's move on to the statement that chemotherapy only works 2% of the time. I've also heard a variation of this, which is that chemotherapy has never cured anyone of cancer. This is obviously not true, is there are many, many people who are still alive today because of chemotherapy. But what about the 2% statistic? Is it true that chemotherapy only works 2% of the time and thus fails 98% of the time? We must first discuss what we mean by effective is the intent of chemotherapy to cure. In other words, completely rid the body of every last cancer cell? Or is the intent to significantly reduce the burden of cancer in the body? The answer to that depends on the specifics of the diagnosis. Chemotherapy is often given with the intent to cure and several types of cancer, such as testicular cancer, anal cancer and various leukemias and lymphomas. For many solid tumors, chemotherapy isn't expected to cure cancer on its own, but is instead given to greatly reduce the cancer burden in the body. In these cases, it is a significant weapon in the treatment arsenal. Often used in combination with other therapies such as surgery, radiation or hormonal therapy to completely achieve a cure. In other situations, chemotherapy is used to help manage the cancer and control the growth, or at least slow it enough to hopefully extend life. So back to the statement that chemotherapy only works 2% of the time. This comes from a frequently cited study conducted in Australia in 2004, which concluded that chemotherapy only contributed 2% to the five year survival in 22 different adult malignancies.
Sounds like quite a bombshell, right? It turns out this is a poorly designed study that has been frequently criticized since. It conveniently left out the types of cancer for which chemotherapy is most effective. It also failed to distinguish between patients receiving chemotherapy for an early stage cancer versus a late stage cancer diagnosis. Finally, what doctors diagnosed with cancer have chemotherapy and often, quote, a statistic is that 75% of oncologists would refuse chemotherapy themselves. This statistic is usually made to justify the claims that chemotherapy must be ineffective or else doctors would use it themselves. Where does this 75% refusal statistic come from? It turns out that in 1985, a survey was mailed to about 100 oncologists. The survey asked them to imagine that they had incurable non-small cell lung cancer, which had spread to the bones, and asked them if they would receive the chemotherapy agent cisplatin as a palliative treatment. One third of respondents said that they would take the chemotherapy, while two thirds said that they would not. It is important to note that Cisplatin was still a new drug at the time with considerable side effects. These doctors were basically saying that if they had incurable stage four cancer, that they would not use this new drug because of its potential impact on their quality of life and lack of available research at the time that it would be helpful. Now, again, 33% of doctors said they would still take it despite this situation and two thirds would not.
So we have this one study which looked at a hypothetical situation involving one type of cancer and a new drug of uncertain benefit. Two thirds, or about 66% of the roughly 100 oncologists surveyed said that they would not take the chemotherapy. Yet this statistic is still being used over 30 years later to suggest that most oncologists wouldn't take chemotherapy for any type of cancer under any circumstance. See how misleading this is. Interestingly, a follow up study was conducted in the late 1990s. The survey question was as follows You are a 60 year old oncologist with non-small cell lung cancer, with metastasis to the liver and bones. Would you take chemotherapy, yes or no? Among the oncologists surveyed, 64.5% of oncologists said they would take the chemotherapy, as did 67% of oncology nurses. Again, this was for an incurable cancer using chemotherapy for palliative treatment rather than for curative intent. And in this case, we had two thirds of doctors and nurses saying that they would take chemotherapy versus the previous study, in which case two thirds said they would not. Other studies have found that nearly 100% of oncologists would take chemotherapy if it were a recommended treatment for their diagnosis. In each of these situations, details matter, not accepting chemotherapy when the disease is incurable and the potential side effects outweigh the potential benefits is reasonable. That is a different scenario entirely from not accepting it when it is recommended for a treatable cancer, when the potential benefits outweigh the potential harms.
Remember, cancer is a diagnosis used for over 100 different diseases. Every cancer is different. In addition, there are dozens of different chemotherapy agents, each of which are different. They have a different mechanism of action, a different potential set of benefits, and a different set of potential side effects. And moreover, we must remember that every patient is different. We know from research that every patient's cancer is not going to respond the same way. As I've said before, cancer is complicated. We need to use as many different tools as we can to best fight it. With very few exceptions, chemotherapy should be one of those tools. I get it. It isn't perfect. It has a potential to cause side effects. But that's why I believe we should be using it differently in smaller doses, given more often. I've discussed this in detail in prior podcast episodes, but as you know, the upside to giving chemotherapy in this way far outweighs the potential downsides in almost all cases. The truth is, there are no perfect cancer treatments. Any treatment which has a potential for benefit also has a potential for harm. And that is true for everything from chemotherapy to surgery to radiation to any natural treatment out there as well. The idea that there are perfect cancer treatments out there which work great and have zero possibility of side effects, is a false narrative. I hope you found this information today to be helpful. Today's episode should be a lesson for all of us to not blindly accept what we're told.
Context matters and statistics can easily be manipulated or misunderstood. You can always count on me to look out for you and your best interest. I do this podcast because I want to transform the way cancer is treated. I believe it can be treated better, and that's exactly what I do in my clinic every day. I truly care about you and wherever you are in your journey. I am humbled by the listeners we have throughout the world who have faithfully listened to this podcast from day one and who listen for reliable and innovative cancer information. Thank you so much for listening. As I said earlier, this episode kicks off season three of our podcast. I have many exciting guests and topics in store for you during season three. I can't wait to share more great information with you. Please subscribe to the Cancer Secrets podcast to be notified when new episodes are released. If you're enjoying these podcasts, please take a minute and provide a review on iTunes. Finally, please share this podcast with your family and friends. All previous episodes are available for free on our website, Cancer Secrets. And if you'd like even more in-depth information, I highly encourage you to buy my book, Cancer Secrets. It's available on Amazon. And as you know, it's a best seller that I've poured my heart and soul into to provide what I believe is the most thorough, open minded and innovative approach to cancer treatment available today. I look forward to next time. Bye bye.
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