CANCER – Do Natural Therapies Work?

“People with cancer are easy targets for naturopathic scams because they can be desperate for hope and extensively research their treatment options.

‘Natural’ treatments with few side effects appear irresistible when compared to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. But it is almost impossible for most people to know beforehand that these natural remedies won’t do anything for their cancer. If the cancer returns, they are more likely to blame the cancer rather than the ineffective natural remedies they received.” Source: By Suneel D. Kamath August 29, 2017 

People who have read some of my blog will know that I have been dealing with advanced prostate cancer now for very close to 20 years.  Initially I started off self-treating with the help of a naturopath with diet and alternative medicines and lots of exercise.

However, early on I had some good advice: “Cancer is an aggressive beast, and requires aggressive treatment, this can only be achieved by Western medicine”.  Natural therapies can play a useful, supportive role even if only to enable management of one’s overall health pro-actively going forward.

This is the route I’ve taken during my 20 years of treatment and it has stood me in good stead.

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the surface of single cancer cells – prostate cancer cell on the left and breast cancer cell on the right. These cells have surface projections which are characteristic of highly mobile cells and enable them to spread (metastasis) rapidly round the body, and invade other organs and tissues. Cancer cells divide rapidly and chaotically and may clump to form malignant tumors. Source: Science Photo Library.

Most cancer cells are nasty!

During 20 years of dealing with my own cancer, a number of friends and acquaintances have also been diagnosed with different forms of cancer.  Many refused conventional treatments (primarily surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy), or left it until their cancer was so advanced that these approaches were not effective.  It was a high price they all paid – none are here today.

The decisions they made were often based on the advice and encouragement of friends and family. But the danger in this was pointed out by a truly wise observer to one of them who was diagnosed with cancer and had walked away from a very good prognosis for recovery with conventional treatment:

if they were going on a plane trip, would they choose a well-meaning friend with no flying experience to be in the cockpit over an experienced, qualified pilot?

I once asked an oncologist, “What is the worst part of your job?” He replied, “It’s when I see someone I know there is a very high chance of me curing, but they decide to go away and try some natural treatment, or they go to some person without qualifications who promises an easy fix.  When that eventually doesn’t work and they come back to me, there’s often very little I can do.

The rest of this post consists of excerpts from an article by Suneel D. Kamath, M.D., a hematology/oncology fellow at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The complete article can be found here.

It is human nature to believe that anything that is “all natural” is intrinsically good. That line of thought can lead people astray. The truth is, cancer is all natural. While some are caused by smoking or chemical exposures, most of them are sporadic, meaning they aren’t caused by any lifestyle factor, food, or chemical exposure.

Cholesterol, a major cause of heart attacks and strokes, is natural and even necessary — the body requires it to build cell membranes and the protective covering around nerves. HIV, Ebola, and Zika are all caused by naturally occurring viruses.

Absolute and exclusive belief in natural alternative medicine to cure cancer has devastating consequences. A study from 2017 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at 281 patients with non-metastatic breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers who chose to be treated exclusively with an alternative approach, and compared their survival with patients who received conventional cancer treatment.

Overall, those in the alternative medicine group were 2.5 times more likely to die. Those with lung cancer were nearly 2.2 times more likely to die, and those with colorectal cancer were 4.5 times more likely. Women with breast cancer fared the worst — with a 5.7 times higher death rate among those who chose only alternative therapies.

Several other studies have shown similar outcomes, especially for breast cancer.

There’s no doubt that alternative medicine can play important roles in cancer care. Techniques such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and others can greatly improve cancer-related fatigue, pain, mental health, and quality of life when they are added to standard cancer therapy.

Some doctors reject alternative medicine completely, alienating patients (who want to do ‘natural’ and traditional medicine). (People needn’t)  have to choose between alternative and traditional medicine. They can be complementary approaches, not exclusive ones. (People can take) vitamin C tablets, drank berry extract beverages, and participated in yoga or meditation classes during chemotherapy or radiation therapy regimens.

Making a decision about treating cancer shouldn’t be based solely on a natural versus unnatural algorithm. We should focus on making choices that realistically have the best chance to help us. Sometimes, the “unnatural” option is the best one.”

Postcript: If you research whether ‘natural’ and ‘alternative’ therapies can cure cancer, PLEASE also research how so many people who have gone this route at the expense of ignoring conventional treatments have regretted their choice.

I welcome comments whether you agree or disagree, it’s a good conversation to have.

All the best and good health
Charles aka Chaitanya das



8 thoughts on “CANCER – Do Natural Therapies Work?

  1. Couldn’t agree more, Chaitanya das. Conventional therapies + herbal and/or lifestyle therapies is the way to go. I recently found myself faced with serious and urgent treatment decisions and, I’m glad to say, that deciding to make the best of both approaches is working well. A big thank you for sharing so much of your journey.

  2. Thanks Charles. My wife perfectly fits your profile. Diagnosed with breast cancer; rejected chemotherapy; insisted on going to an ‘alternative’ practitioner who assured her 100% that he could heal her; it didn’t work; the guy threw his hands up in the air and claimed it wasn’t his fault; and the final insult was that he still insisted on payment ( which I refused). When she finally went to an oncologist, he was shocked that she had let her condition deteriorate to such an extent. He couldn’t help because it was far too late for chemotherapy etc. to be effective.

    1. Yes it’s a sad situation when that happens, but people will do what they do. Glad you didn’t pay!

  3. Hello Charles. Very interesting post about the decisions many of us will have to make at some point. A couple of questions: it seems cancer patients often choose ‘natural’ therapies in the first instance, as you say you did, and then go conventional when that does not work. In your case, was it fear of some aspect of conventional treatments or did you conclude they weren’t going to work? And what made you change course? From my observations and experience, it seems the medical profession often do themselves no favours by simply expecting patients to accept what they recommend: instead of welcoming patient queries, they feel affronted or challenged. But cancer (among other serious conditions) and treatment is a very big deal – life and death – for the patient. Surely we need the best, most honest information possible from doctors otherwise, despite ourselves, we’ll end up consulting the infamous Dr Google? Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Frank, to answer your questions, In the beginning I was genuinely sure that ‘natural’ therapies would work, but I was encouraged by a good friend to find out exactly HOW successful they were. I could not find any figures to backup what they were claiming, in fact looking into different cases further where they credited ‘natural’ therapies with a cure or cancer regression, they usually had western treatment(s) as well. So I didn’t want to rely solely on something that wasn’t backed up with statistics. Regarding your other topic; its my experience that ‘good’ doctors welcome questions. I have never had a doctor not give me enough time to go through my concerns and discuss those with them. I have had a specialist who was not keen on me getting a 2nd opinion from a certain doctor with a good reputation. In fact I was threatened that if I did he (the doctor who I was initially talking to) may not treat me. Needless to say I decided never to go back to that doctor and went and got my 2nd opinion, and went with his recommendation.

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