Cancer Quackery Part 3

Electrical Devices
The digital age brought computers and technology into the realm of questionable cancer treatments. Many types of unproven electronic devices are available; all promise to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases with the use of electromagnetic fields and currents.5 These therapies frequently are described in pseudoscientific language borrowed from scientific biophysical concepts. Bioresonance
therapy, for example, is based on the unsupported premise that cancer cells and other diseased tissues emit ‘electromagnetic oscillations’ that vary from those generated by healthy cells. Bioresonance devices are said to cancel out or otherwise replace these negative oscillations with healthy ones, thus supporting the body’s own healing processes.29
One such machine, the BICOM 2000, is said to pick up ‘frequency patterns’ from the patient’s body. According to the manufacturer’s website, the device ‘is equipped with special electronics which . . . transform the modulated frequency patterns from the device into “bioresonance magnetic frequency patterns”’. These patterns are then transmitted into the patient’s body as the therapy. Despite its claims, a disclaimer on the website notes that this therapy ‘has not been subject to scientific research and is, therefore, not yet approved’.30 Another device in this category, known alternately as the Quantum Xrroid Interface System, EPFX, or SCIO, is said to balance the body’s ‘bio-energetic forces’. Neither the existence of such forces nor an ability to manipulate them has been documented scientifically. The creator of this device fled to Hungary after being indicted on charges of fraud in the United States but still sells his machine internationally from abroad. In 2008, the FDA banned importation of the device, although it is still used by US practitioners and is purchased by patients in North America.31 The American Cancer Society strongly cautions cancer patients against using
such devices for treatment.32

Emotional Stress and Mind/Body Techniques
Many alternative approaches to healing are premised on the concept of the mind/body connection, and specifically on the theory that patients can harness the power of their mind to heal their physical ills.4 Many mind/ body techniques, such as meditation and biofeedback, have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation, and are effectively and appropriately used as complementary therapies today. However, some proponents of these techniques overpromise, suggesting that emotional stress or other emotional issues can cause diseases like cancer and that correction of these deficiencies through mind–body therapies can effectively treat major illnesses. Such claims are unsupported. Many of these ideas were promoted by a former Yale surgeon, a popular author who advocated special cancer patient support groups in his books. The importance of a positive attitude was stressed, as was the idea that disease could spring from unmet emotional needs. This belief anguished many cancer patients, who assumed responsibility for getting cancer because of an imperfect emotional status. Among alternative modalities, the mind/body approach has been especially persistent over time, possibly in part because it resonates with the American notion of rugged individualism.4
A related approach, which claims a direct link between the emotional and physical self, is promoted by Ryke Geerd Hamer in his ‘German New Medicine’. This philosophy asserts that ‘every disease is caused by a shock experience that catches us completely off guard’, and that this emotional shock instantaneously leads to a physical change in the brain, reportedly causing ‘a lesion that is clearly visible on a brain scan’. The affected area of the brain is then said to trigger cancer, tissue degeneration, or other problems in the organ system it controls, with the specific nature of the disease ‘determined by the exact type of conflict shock’.33,34 The treatment focuses on resolving the initial ‘psychic shock’ and overcoming fear of one’s diagnosis, which paves the way for the body to heal itself. This modality has no biological basis or evidence to support its claims, but is widely disseminated, producing some 175,000 results when searched on Google.

Prayer
Finally, chronic disease patients may turn to personal prayer or intercessory prayer in hopes of curing cancer and other serious illnesses. Although prayer is harmless—and very helpful to many when used in conjunction with appropriate mainstream treatment—some patients elect to forgo mainstream care
in the hope that prayer alone will heal them. A 2009 Cochrane review found that, although certain individual studies suggest some benefit from intercessory prayer, there is no clear evidence that it has any impact on clinical outcome.35 Prayer may be useful, but not as an alternative to mainstream cancer treatment.

Reflections
Quackery is an ancient problem, depicted in art perhaps most famously in the 17th century by Jan Steen in his painting ‘The Charlatan’ (‘Quacksalver’— from which we get the term ‘quackery’). Some quacks are true charlatans, while others are believers in what they preach. Both, however, promote unproven or disproved alternative therapies as ‘cures’ for disease. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of
patients willing to embark on these questionable and often very expensive treatment plans. Desperate patients and their loved ones—especially when facing serious or untreatable illness— are inclined to believe in miracles.
Unproven approa ches are dangerous to patients. Even when the therapy itself does not harm, people too often choose to shun conventional treatment entirely and replace it with an alternative treatment that does nothing to diminish their disease. Public education can help, along with knowledgeable doctors who are familiar enough with alternative approaches to successfully guide patients away from them. With science-based treatment options achieving ever-greater cure rates, quack treatments may eventually lose their appeal.
Declaration of Interest
None.
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Comments

Unknown said…
Fighting cancer the natural way. Why not? its somewhat a complementary and alternative medicine for cancer..
Disha Kapoor said…
Great blog, Thanks for sharing this information. Dr. Sanjog Jaiswal is one of the best oncology specialist and provides the best oncological care in Indore

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