Respectful Insolence

One last brief comment about Suzanne Somers

Before I move on for a while from the topic of that faded 1970s comic actress, Suzanne Somers, whose latest book is a paean to cancer quackery and who has been carpetbombing the airwaves with burning napalm stupid, I think one revelation is worth a brief mention. Specifically, after my post about how I find Somers’ story about being misdiagnosed with cancer, a fan wrote:

Orac,

Sarcoidosis? Nope. Wrong again. Suzanne admitted on TV she had an acute pulmonary fungal infection, valley fever. Try going back to medical school, you mental midget.

I do so love the adoration of my fans. However, it would answer many questions. Valley fever is due to a fungus that is endemic in the southwest United States. If that was indeed what Somers had, it must have been the disseminated version:

The most serious form of the disease, disseminated coccidioidomycosis occurs when the infection spreads (disseminates) beyond the lungs to other parts of the body. Most often these parts include the skin, bones, liver, brain, heart, and the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
The signs and symptoms of disseminated disease depend on which parts of your body are affected and may include:

  • Nodules, ulcers and skin lesions that are more serious than the rash that sometimes occurs with other forms of the disease
  • Painful lesions in the skull, spine or other bones
  • Painful, swollen joints, especially in the knees or ankles
  • Meningitis — an infection of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord and the most deadly complication of valley fever

Now here’s the kicker. Take a look at these two (out of several) risk factors:

  • Weakened immune system. Anyone with a weakened immune system is at increased risk of serious complications, including disseminated disease. This includes people living with AIDS or those being treated with steroids, chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs after transplant surgery. People with cancer and Hodgkin’s disease also have an increased risk.
  • Age. Older adults are more likely to develop valley fever than younger people are. This may be because their immune systems are less robust or because they have other medical conditions that affect their overall health.

These are risk factors for the serious disseminated coccidioidomycosis. Most people who contract coccidioidomycosis are either asymptomatic or have mild disease. Indeed, valley fever often presents as a flu-like illness. Many people, in fact, are unaware that they’ve ever had coccidioidomycosis until there’s either an abnormality on chest X-ray done for another reason or they have a positive skin or blood test. So why did Somers get such a serious case? It’s a legitimate question, given how she represents her woo regimen as the path to rejuvenation and health.

Let’s see. Somers is 63, but apparently in good health. She also takes all sorts of supplements which, or so she claims, “strengthen the immune system.” But her immune system was obviously not strong enough to prevent her from getting disseminated coccidioidomycosis. Didn’t all those supplements ward off the fungus? Another possibility presents itself. Somers takes boatloads of “bioidentical” hormones. One wonders if any of her various supplements or bioidentical hormones were somehow adulterated with corticosteroids, which suppressed her immune system.

Either way, for someone who takes handfuls of supplement pills every day and makes millions of dollars selling woo to “boost the immune system,” Somers sure doesn’t appear to have a particularly strong immune system. After all, it let her get a severe infection that almost killed her from a fungus that usually causes mild disease or doesn’t even cause symptoms.

OK, that’s enough for now. No more on Somers until I have a chance to read a few chapters of her book. Be not afraid. At least until I revisit this topic in a week or two. Until then, though, I’ve had enough too. In the meantime, chalk up this discussion as providing yet another “inconvenient” question that needs to be asked of her, assuming that “Borack” was correct.

Comments

  1. #1 Zombie
    October 23, 2009

    Who knows, maybe Somers had cancer of some other sort, took chemo, got coccidiowhateveritis, and that’s what got her rolling on her anti-chemo/immune system thing.

  2. #2 SciencePundit
    October 23, 2009

    Or maybe she had Valley Girl Fever, you know, ike gag me with a spoon.

  3. #3 SciencePundit
    October 23, 2009

    *like

  4. #4 antipodean
    October 23, 2009

    But the differential on “House” always includes Sarcoidosis.

    How could we ignore it during another bout of media-induced medicine?

  5. #5 Militant Agnostic
    October 23, 2009

    A bit OT but in case no one noticed, Canadian Quackbuster Terry Polevoy obtained a copy of Hulda Clark’s death certificate and posted this comment on the old “Requiem for a Quack” thread.

    Hulda Clark died of cancer on September 3, 2009 at her son’s house in California. I have a copy of her death certificate. She had multiple melanoma with hypercalcemia and anemia. Patrick Timothy Bolen and his entourage of cancer quacks and their supporters can’t stand it, so they said that she died of something else. When I heard that she died of a spinal injury, I knew that she must have had cancer of some kind. All it took was about $12.00 to obtain a copy of her certificate from the San Diego County Clerk’s office.

    P.S. Bolen can’t stand the truth and the victims of Hulda Clark’s lieshave suffered enough. Her pain is gone, but her victim’s pain continues forever.

    Perhaps this deserves a post?

  6. #6 bparton
    October 23, 2009

    Very interesting point, Orac! I heard she admitted to taking growth hormone in her most recent book prior to this quack interview extravaganza she’s hawking at the moment. Like you, I am loath to purchase any of her books, but now you’ve got me wondering…

    One thing you have to give Suzanne Somers a lot of credit for is her knack for making millions off of every little thing that comes along in her life. I believe that last time I did any Internet research on her, she was also peddling a Face Master or some such nonsense. GACK!

  7. #7 Whamocat
    October 23, 2009

    No need to purchase the book, just reserve a copy at your library.

  8. #8 Dianne
    October 23, 2009

    She had multiple melanoma with hypercalcemia and anemia.

    Multiple myeloma? Melanoma is a different disease that doesn’t usually or at least typically cause anemia and hypercalcemia.

  9. #9 Uncle Dave
    October 23, 2009

    “One thing you have to give Suzanne Somers a lot of credit for is her knack for making millions off of every little thing that comes along in her life.”

    This is a given right to most individuals within the celebrity ranks. They sit around like everyone else and talk about they’re most recent or childhood experiences, however these individuals have people that surround them whom are “in the business” who say “You need to write a book about your experience!” and then they get them hooked up with a writer and a coach who likely gives them a tape recorder and coaches them to talk chronologically (maybe not) into the recorder about the experience.

    Giving her credit for writing about every little thing that comes along in her life has been a lucrative business angle in the celebrity management bag of tricks for many years now.

    I believe a book could be sold claiming it was an autobiography of Arnold Ziffel the pig of the sitcom Green Acres.
    Damit! there goes another great idea that I just threw out there into the cyber world!

  10. #10 EM Tech
    October 23, 2009

    Haven’t there been reports of super-exclusive herbal blends being contaminated or adulterated with any number of god-awful things? I understand some Chinese medicine has landed people with liver failure. It’s amazing to me that it never seems to occur to people that down hundreds of pills a day that it MIGHT.BE.THE.PILLS.

    Maybe if she wasn’t spending a fortune on all that crap she wouldn’t need to be a shrill beast of stupid to acquire the means to afford it all. She could be decent and just be addicted to Vicodin.

  11. #11 bigjohn756
    October 23, 2009

    Suzanne Somers is going to be on Larry King tonight according to the online TV Guide. Watching that ought to raise your gorge.

  12. #12 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 23, 2009

    Another possibility presents itself. Somers takes boatloads of “bioidentical” hormones. One wonders if any of her various supplements or bioidentical hormones were somehow adulterated with corticosteroids, which suppressed her immune system.

    Wonder no more!

    via Credentialed at #47 of the previous thread:

    I’ve read some of the excerpt now…Somers really doesn’t have a clue.

    In her story, the evil Dr. Oncologist says “Well, you should have told me you were on steroids” after the “full-body cancer” “misdiagnois” and her response:

    I am not on steroids. I would never take steroids. But because he is stuck in old thinking and so out of touch with new medicine, he has no clue and doesn’t understand cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience…Why steroids would have anything to do with being misdiagnosed with full-body cancer, I can’t guess.

  13. #13 Orac
    October 23, 2009

    “I’m not on steroids, but I’m taking cortisol replacement”? The stupid, it burns!

    In any case, I missed that. There was no link provided, though. Where was that excerpt from?

  14. #14 Credentialed
    October 23, 2009

    It’s in “Day 5″ of the excerpt here. I went full-on facepalm reading that section…

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    October 23, 2009

    Jeez; either she doesn’t know what cortisol is (nor what steroids are; maybe she thinks only anabolic steroids count?) or (more likely, given her comment about “new medicine”), she thinks they’re only steroids if used in certain contexts. Bad, old, Western medicine uses steroids. “New medicine” uses cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience.

    *gag*

    I have to assume that either her supplements don’t list their side effects (in which case they’re blatantly illegally marked) or she doesn’t bother to read them (which is entirely plausible). Corticosteroids increase the risk of fungal infections, you twit Somers, making them way worse than in a normal, unmedicated person! And you represent yourself as a normal, unmedicated person, so of course your doctors wouldn’t anticipate a bizarrely overdramatic fungal infection in your case, but would instead think “oh, she’s had cancer, we should consider the possibility it has returned”.

    Somers is a twit. And if she’s taking enough cortisone to do that, she’s wrecking her body. My grandma is alive today because of cortisone. She’s also got terrifyingly fragile skin because of it. It’s a fair price to pay for surviving severe asthma, but to take it when you don’t actually need to??? Somers obviously has no idea whatsoever what she’s doing to herself.

  16. #16 tariqata
    October 23, 2009

    I am not on steroids. I would never take steroids. But because he is stuck in old thinking and so out of touch with new medicine, he has no clue and doesn’t understand cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience…Why steroids would have anything to do with being misdiagnosed with full-body cancer, I can’t guess.

    More than anything else, this reminds me of the day when, as a teenager working in a baked goods shop, a woman came to me and said, “My doctor has prescribed a zero-fat, zero-carb, zero-calorie diet. Which of your muffins can I eat?”

    She was dead serious. A zero CALORIE diet. It really, really is true that people do not always hear what their doctors are saying.

  17. #17 Orac
    October 23, 2009

    Another Somers gem:

    Why steroids would have anything to do with being misdiagnosed with full-body cancer, I can’t guess. But we still don’t know what has gone wrong in my body. We still have to find out what caused me to end up in the ER.

    Uh, because you pumped yourself full of not just “bioidentical” hormones but cortisol too, and the cortisol suppressed your immune system, leading you to get a case of raging systemic coccidiomycosis that almost killed you!

    Damn. I should have looked for another excerpt instead of just relying on the MSNBC excerpt. The Insolence would have turned out so much more satisfying. Perhaps I’ll rectify that by analyzing the first chapter on SBM on Monday, pulling together everything I’ve learned into a more coherent and sober post, perfect to send to journalists. :-)

    I will, however, keep my promise not to write about this book any more here on RI until after I’ve read a few chapters.

  18. #18 Pieter B
    October 23, 2009

    Hey, Ms Google PhD: http://www.vitamins-supplements.org/hormones/cortisol.php

    Cortisol
    is usually referred to as hydrocortisone when used medicinally. Cortisol is the principal glucocorticoid. Glucocorticoids are essential to life. They enable human body to adapt to external changes and stress. They also maintain fairly consistent plasma glucose levels even when we go for long periods without ingesting food. Cortisol is the major corticosteroid. It is responsible for about 95% of all glucocorticoid activity in the body.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortisol :

    Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone or glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal cortex, which is part of the adrenal gland (in the zona fasciculata and the zona reticularis of the adrenal cortex). It is usually referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in response to stress and anxiety, controlled by CRH. It increases blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses.

  19. #19 James Sweet
    October 23, 2009

    Wow. Cortisol not a steroid. Wow. If we could only harness the burning stupid as a renewable energy source, a single TV interview with Somers could power all of Los Angeles for a month!

    Hey, Ms Google PhD:

    Indeed, people knock the University of Google, but frankly, almost everything the quacks say can be handily debunked with a just a teensy bit of googling. The problem is not so much people relying on the internet to get their information, the problem is people being entirely unskeptical about the information they receive. The internet just allows them to receive the information much more rapidly.

  20. #20 Andreas Johansson
    October 23, 2009

    maybe she thinks only anabolic steroids count?

    That seems to be a pretty widespread misconception.

    (Me, I assumed from the start there must be other kinds, as other ways there’d be no need to specify anabolic steroids, would there? While I’m now aware language doesn’t necessarily make this sort of sense, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb, particularly where technical vocabulary is concerned.)

  21. #21 Uncle Dave
    October 23, 2009

    @tariqata; How true, how true!!

    My mom does not always quite get the message right from her doctor as well, but she is turning 80, she has an excuse.
    Told to take a supplemental drink to aid in her gaining some weight. Find her walking around with one of these caffinated energy drinks. Whoa mom, I think you missed the mark on that one. Confused Boost or Ensure with 5 Minute Energy.

    She was folding paper bags and laundry like a mad woman and not gaining weight, thanks to poor medical advice!! ;)

    Maybe I should write a book about this????

  22. #22 T. Bruce McNeely
    October 23, 2009

    Uncle Dave:

    She was folding paper bags and laundry like a mad woman and not gaining weight

    5 Minute Energy does that? I need some now!

  23. #23 Pieter B
    October 23, 2009

    Reading the Chapter 1 excerpt. From the first day:

    My heart is pounding so hard that for the first time in my life I say, “I . . . I think you need to give me something to calm me down. I’m afraid I am going to have a heart attack.”

    “Absolutely,” the doctor says.

    My blood pressure is at 191. I am usually 110 over 80. Pounding, pounding, pounding.

    Day 2:

    The nurse walks in. “I have your blood pressure medicines.”

    “Since when have I been on blood pressure medicine?” I ask, feeling upset.

    “Oh, it’s been in your IV all along,” she says.

    “Who ordered that?” I ask incredulously.

    “Your doctor ordered it,” she says flatly.

    “No, I don’t want blood pressure medicine.” My voice is rising, “I don’t have high blood pressure. I am upset. I am very upset! Wouldn’t you be?”

    There is not enough facepalm in the world. Doesn’t Random House have editors any more?

  24. #24 Yojimbo
    October 23, 2009

    @19 Good point James. However, the biggest problem with sifting data from the Internet is that often the most valuable information takes the greatest effort to understand. I think that generally people find simple statements easier to believe – knowledge in 15 second sound bites.

    So, though the information is readily available, too few people have the basic critical thinking tools needed to assess it. Yes, they could debunk the quacks, but it is so much easier to believe them.

  25. #25 James Sweet
    October 23, 2009

    Yojimbo — Yeah, you’re probably right. Depressing, but probably right.

    Slightly related: My wife is hoping to start a business offering classes of interest to pregnant women, e.g. pre-natal yoga, etc. If it ever gets off the ground, one thing she plans to do is to counter the prolific grassroots anti-vax meetings/seminars with an informal class that actually tells the truth about vaccines and debunks the most common anti-vaccination claims.

  26. #26 Sastra
    October 23, 2009

    James Sweet:

    Perhaps she should title that part of the class “What THEY Don’t Want You to Know about Vaccines!!!111!1″

    By the time they figure out who “THEY” are, they’ve gotten science-based information.

  27. #27 James Sweet
    October 23, 2009

    Perhaps she should title that part of the class “What THEY Don’t Want You to Know about Vaccines!!!111!1″

    By the time they figure out who “THEY” are, they’ve gotten science-based information.

    You kid, but one could advertise a class debunking anti-vax propaganda using exactly the same text used to advertise meetings to promote anti-vax propaganda, and you wouldn’t be deceptive at all (in fact, arguably less deceptive than the text’s original purpose).

    For example, consider the following text that was used to advertise an anti-vax meeting:

    Dear Friends,
    **** Health Care will be hosting a discussion on Vaccines. The talk will be led by local Chiropractor **** *****, who specializes in Pregnancy and Pediatrics. We know it can be overwhelming with all the anti-vaccine and pro-vaccine information out there. We will discuss vaccine safety, your options, state laws and more. We hope you can join us!

    Except for the fact that it’s led by a chiropractor, that sounds great! Except, uh, it wasn’t…

    (BTW, I must confess I had another opportunity to infiltrate one of these anti-vax meetings and play debunker, but I declined. I just don’t have the energy or the emotional fortitude to go into a room of thirty people staring daggers into you while you serve up a hot steaming pile of truth…)

  28. #28 James Sweet
    October 23, 2009

    (Argh, stupid spam filter! Sorry for the double post once my properly-linked-but-filtered version gets through…)

    Perhaps she should title that part of the class “What THEY Don’t Want You to Know about Vaccines!!!111!1″

    By the time they figure out who “THEY” are, they’ve gotten science-based information.

    You kid, but one could advertise a class debunking anti-vax propaganda using exactly the same text used to advertise meetings to promote anti-vax propaganda, and you wouldn’t be deceptive at all (in fact, arguably less deceptive than the text’s original purpose).

    For example, consider the following text that was used to advertise an anti-vax meeting that I crashed:

    Dear Friends,
    **** Health Care will be hosting a discussion on Vaccines. The talk will be led by local Chiropractor **** *****, who specializes in Pregnancy and Pediatrics. We know it can be overwhelming with all the anti-vaccine and pro-vaccine information out there. We will discuss vaccine safety, your options, state laws and more. We hope you can join us!

    Except for the fact that it’s led by a chiropractor, that sounds great! Except, uh, it wasn’t… this chiropractor so married to anti-vax orthodoxy that she hadn’t even discarded the widely debunked antifreeze gambit yet. Oy…

    (BTW, I must confess I had another opportunity to infiltrate one of these anti-vax meetings and play debunker, but I declined. I just don’t have the energy or the emotional fortitude to go into a room of thirty people staring daggers into you while you serve up a hot steaming pile of truth…)

  29. #29 Borack
    October 23, 2009

    Orac,

    Suzanne’s fungal infection was associated with immune suppression caused by high dose progesterone.

    Endocrinol Exp. 1980 Mar;14(1):27-33.
    Suppression of immune responses by progesterone.

    Hey, who said you were a mental midget? Not possible. You don’t have enough brains to be a mental midget.

  30. #30 Roger Rains
    October 23, 2009

    I just followed the link and read about ten minutes of the exerpt and come to the conclusion that it is about 90% pure crap. I mean, I’ve been practicing medicine in So. California a while and what she describes doesn’t even approximate what happens in the real world. Her description, I think, goes beyond simple misunderstanding. The most obvious explanation is that her goal is to sell books. And a boring story does not a best seller make. So, hey… how can we make this story more interesting? Let’s concoct some villains! And a whole hospital full of morons who made it through medical school! Oh, please. This story is about 2 cc of truth mixed with six gallons of fantasy. It is factually homeopathic.

    -RR-

  31. #31 Credentialed
    October 23, 2009

    Boy Borack, you sure got Orac on this one…I mean, it’s not like he basically laid all that out in comment #17.

    Nope. You’re clearly far more intelligent.

    You win teh interwebz!

  32. #32 stripey_cat
    October 23, 2009

    I’m just boggling at the idea of someone taking cortisol unnecessarily. Someone I know’s been on it for twenty-odd years from Addison’s disease, and sure the side-effects are better than death, but not by very much! I’m sure her doses are much higher than the woo-ful ones, but still. Side-effects (only the ones that spring to mind!): premature menopause, immunocompromised to hell and back, diabetes, multiple strokes (from iatrogenic high-blood pressure), random muscle pain, depression, weight-gain with really odd fat and muscle distribution patterns, and aggression. She’s under close supervision from two consultants (geriatrics and endocrinology), and the kicker – she’s only in her fifties.

  33. #33 anonymous
    October 23, 2009
  34. #34 Borack
    October 23, 2009

    Boy Borack, you sure got Orac on this one…I mean, it’s not like he basically laid all that out in comment #17. Nope. You’re clearly far more intelligent. You win teh interwebz!

    Wrong again. Cortisol ain’t progesterone. Another mental midget strikes out. Small physiologic doses of hydrocortisone don’t suppress the immune system. On the other hand progesterone does. That’s how your mommy tolerated a large immune stimulating organism growing in her uterus until it eventually popped out and startled the world with its intelligence.

  35. #35 T. Bruce McNeely
    October 23, 2009

    Borack, perhaps you could explain why a post-menopausal woman would need to take cortisol (as Somers admits), since menopause has nothing to do with adrenal cortical function.

    Perhaps you could explain why physiologic doses of progesterone would suppress the immune system, given that healthy premenopausal women have the same progesterone circulating normally in physiologic amounts. Are all pre-menopausal women immune deficient?

  36. #36 Credentialed
    October 23, 2009

    Oh! Cortisol isn’t progesterone?! Thanks for the correction! Teach me more! Teach me about the immune suppression caused by that non-progesterone cortisol, in particular…

    Bottom line: a has-been actress has been pumping herself full of a variety of steroids for years. This alone may have put her at risk of dying from a common infection. Beyond that, her asinine health plan is probably wildly inappropriate for the prevention of cancer, and her health advice would only be taken seriously by those with a pathological disconnect with reality (e.g., those even more “mental midget”-tastic than even me or even Borack!)

    But why are you still here? Didn’t you already win teh interwebz?

  37. #37 gaiainc
    October 23, 2009

    By Borack’s reasoning, all the women currently on Depo-Provera, Implanon, and oral contraceptives should all be immunosuppressed because they are all receiving extra-physiologic doses of progesterone. Yet, somehow, they are not. Fascinating.

    Cortisol does nothing for a post-menopausal state. Somers is a fricking idjit.

  38. #38 titmouse
    October 23, 2009

    Small physiologic doses of hydrocortisone don’t suppress the immune system.

    Exogenous hydrocortisone in someone with working adrenals will suppress the HPA system. Dangerous thing to do. One of the reasons we taper steroids carefully.

  39. #39 Calli Arcale
    October 23, 2009

    “Small physiologic doses of hydrocortisone don’t suppress the immune system.”

    Really? That’s news to me, because it contradicts what my prednisone package insert says. All caps are in the original document.

    “CORTICOSTEROIDS MAY LOWER YOUR ABILITY TO FIGHT INFECTION or may cause infections to be more severe. The risk may be greater if you take them for a long time. Avoid contact with people who have infections such as colds, chickenpox, measles, or tuberculosis (TB). Tell your doctor right away if you have contact with anyone who has these infections. Tell your doctor if you develop symptoms such as fever, sore throat, rash, or chills. Check with your doctor if you have questions about your risk of infection. CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE HAVING IMMUNIZATIONS (VACCINATIONS) while you are using this medicine.”

    (The last advice, pertaining to vaccinations, is because vaccinations are less likely to be effective if you are on oral cortisone.)

    Meanwhile, my *inhaled* corticosteroid, Pulmicort, carries other warnings. I don’t still have the package insert, but they take great care to advise the patient to rinse the mouth thoroughly with water after every use. This is to reduce the risk of oral thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth). Though inhaled steroids are far less likely to suppress the immune system globally, they definitely do suppress it locally — indeed, that’s kinda the point. Asthma is, after all, an autoimmune disease.

    My grandma’s taken oral prednisone off and on for *years*. She consequently gets sick very easily, and has terrible problems with fungal infections, particularly oral thrush and toenail infections.

  40. #40 Jen
    October 23, 2009

    Oh, lulz! Did nobody else post this yet?
    Newsweek:
    BREAKING: Health Author Suzanne Somers Mostly Wrong About Science, Medicine
    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thehumancondition/archive/2009/10/23/breaking-health-author-suzanne-somers-mostly-wrong-about-science-medicine.aspx
    Lead paragraph:
    “It’s the book every medical writer in the country wants to ignore. Suzanne Somers’s latest “health” tome hit the bookstores this week, and this time she’s offering her advice on how to cure and prevent cancer. As if people with cancer don’t have enough problems. When the review copy arrived, we decided to give it a once-over—so you don’t have to.”

  41. #41 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 24, 2009

    Suzanne’s fungal infection was associated with immune suppression caused by high dose progesterone.

    Any reference for that? Beyond a 30-year-old study on rodent skin grafts, that is. Here’s the abstract:

    Endocrinol Exp. 1980 Mar;14(1):27-33.
    Suppression of immune responses by progesterone.

    Biodegradable sustained release progesterone-collagen dosage from prolonged significantly the survival of hamster-rat and mico-mice skin grafts. The duration of immune response suppression could be correlated to progesterone concentration in the collagen matrix. Collagaen sponges, sponges containing pregnenolone, estradiol, or cortisol were not effective in prolonging skin graft survival.

    I’d expect something more than that. At least a study that linked the type of infection she had to high dose progesterone.

    Especially in light of this page: Coccidioidomycosis (by eMedicine)

    Here’s a relevant section:

    Mortality/Morbidity

    C immitis infection is rarely fatal, except in those who may be extremely immunocompromised. Residual pulmonary disease occurs in 5-10% of patients, and only about 1% of patients progress to disseminated disease.

    Any person with impaired cellular immunity has a greater risk for disseminated disease. Individuals with HIV or AIDS are particularly susceptible to more severe disease, especially those with CD4 counts of less than 250. The risk of dissemination is also increased during pregnancy; the risk is slightly higher with each progressive trimester. Patients with lymphoma, those who have undergone solid organ transplant, and patients receiving long-term corticosteroid treatment also have a higher risk of dissemination. Recent advances in immunosuppressive therapy with tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha inhibitors have also been proposed as a risk factor for advanced or disseminated disease.

    In case you missed it: “patients receiving long-term corticosteroid treatment also have a higher risk of dissemination”

    While progesterone may have an effect (see link to pregancy), cortisol definitely does, and even the quote from Suzie-Q acknowledged the cortisol connection.

    So who’s the mental midget, Borack?

  42. #42 Daylily
    October 24, 2009

    Found this site through Google, after being outraged by the Somers interview on Larry King, featuring a Dr. Brucynski.

    In desperation because of peritoneal cancer, which wasn’t responding well to treatment, my well-educated and otherwise intelligent friend traveled from Southern California to Houston to be treated by Dr. B.

    She was billed an outrageous/astronomical amount of money to be made extremely ill there, and returned home for further conventional treatment.

    Tomorrow, I will attend her memorial service. What I can’t understand is how this doctor is practicing medicine within the law.

  43. #43 Fat Bastard
    October 24, 2009

    The leading cause of death in the US is medical errors. Doctors suck!

  44. #44 Mi
    October 24, 2009

    @42 – Citation please, listing other causes of death for comparison. I won’t hold my breath waiting.

    Orac, Credentialed et al – thanks for wading through the concentrated stupid so we don’t have to.

  45. #45 Denice Walter
    October 24, 2009

    @ Daylily: I’m so sorry about your friend.1.Orac has written a great deal about cancer quackery at this blog.Stick around.2. Read more about Burzynski @ Quackwatch( see lists @ sub-heading “Individuals”/see “Other Individuals”- he’s there.)

  46. #46 Dr. P
    October 24, 2009

    I am not on steroids. I would never take steroids. But because he is stuck in old thinking and so out of touch with new medicine, he has no clue and doesn’t understand cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience…Why steroids would have anything to do with being misdiagnosed with full-body cancer, I can’t guess.

    ;Followed by cortisol isn’t(sorry,ain’t,how colloquial) progesterone;follwed by the old canard in #42; Oooooooooooowwwwwwwwww!!!!Make it stop!!!Research a little before you make idiotic, poorly informed conclusions.( hint,Borack, how did you determine her doses of cortisol were”physiogic”?)

  47. #47 k
    October 24, 2009

    According to my natur-woo-path friend
    (“NWP” hereafter), cortisol is used to
    treat “adrenal fatigue” as a component
    of BIHT. Ostensibly, “adrenal fatigue”
    is a result of long-term, ongoing stress.
    NWP’s position is that BIHT for
    menopausal women is mainly some
    combination of estrogen, progesterone,
    and testosterone.

    Anyone willing to consume cortisol long-term
    as part of a natur-woo-pathic regimen
    must be willing to also accept the
    consequences of steroid misuse/abuse, even
    it they’re stupid enough to claim they
    didn’t know.

    (Disclaimer: I am a long term user of
    fluticasone and salmeterol, as separate
    inhalers and as Advair Diskus, for
    asthma. My late mother had daily prednisone
    for treatment of COPD during the last few
    years of her life…the skin-thinning was
    probably why it was so easy to see her
    getting cyanotic.)

  48. #48 Anonymoose
    October 24, 2009

    Orac…I work with you and the best I have ever been able to say about is that you’re asshole….After the Somers story…I can now say you’re a fucking asshole!

  49. #49 Mr. B
    October 24, 2009

    Roger Rains:

    This story is about 2 cc of truth mixed with six gallons of fantasy. It is factually homeopathic.

    This comment is full of win – I love the “factually homeopathic” trope.

  50. #50 LibraryGuy
    October 26, 2009

    I too think that “factually homeopathic” is a great phrase. I’m gonna use it every chance I get-except at my other job, where I work in the department that sells homeopathic crap.*

    And Yojimbo, I agree with your post about getting accurate medical information from the Internet. We have some great health databases at the library, but they still have “alternative” sections. I find that hanging out here is a great education. This thread alone has taught me an amazing amount of information-and presented it in a very entertaining way!

    *Just a thought: If a statement is factually homeopathic, does that mean that the smaller amount of facts it contains, the more true it is?

  51. #51 Kathryn
    October 26, 2009

    In case anyone’s interested, Marilynn Marchione of the AP blasted Somers multiple times in an article warning consumers about “bioidentical” hormones.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091026/ap_on_he_me/us_med_unproven_remedies_menopause;_ylt=AnjjwrE2zzufsDpruMQWgm5a24cA;_ylu=X3oDMTE1dGxlbW41BHBvcwMzBHNlYwN5bi1jaGFubmVsBHNsawNiaW9pZGVudGljYWw-

    Sorry about the long link… hope it works.

  52. #52 T. Bruce McNeely
    October 26, 2009

    Kathryn:
    Thanks for the reference, that’s a very helpful article.

  53. #53 ArBit
    October 26, 2009

    Orac and his minions operate under the assumption that someone, somewhere in oncology has made a contribution in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer….and that would be?

    The only notable contribution “conventional” medicine has made to breast cancer is causing less through moratoriums
    on pathogens like HRT….next mammograms….

    The same arguments you people have for Burzynski, Gonzales are just as true for morons like ORAC who giggle at the prospect of amputating more breasts and poisoning their ex-owners…

  54. #54 Scientizzle
    October 26, 2009

    ArBit. You’re rather misinformed. Go stuff yourself.

  55. #55 Arbit
    October 26, 2009

    Scientizzle….?

    Provide data….lifetime survival rates

  56. #56 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 26, 2009

    who giggle at the prospect of amputating more breasts and poisoning their ex-owners…

    Pray tell, is there some sort of Protocols of the Elders of Allopathic Medicine you guys get this stuff from?

  57. #57 Scientizzle
    October 26, 2009

    So…Arbit…see that bluish word? That’s an html link. If you click on it, you’ll be taken to another web page, in this case, a PubMed entry on a 2007 article published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Cancer. Proceeding from there, you can read the actual article…

    If you had done so, you would have seen that the article compares survival rates for women with metastatic breast cancer across the previous decade. Within you’ll find information of this nature:

    The median survival for patients in Cohorts 1 [1991-92] through 4 [1999-2000] was 436 days, 450 days, 564 days, and 661 days respectively.

    The authors attribute a 30% increase in average survival time over the decade to progressively improving chemotherepeutic regimens and greater availability of these treatment options.

    There’s your data. Now go stuff yourself again.

  58. #58 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 26, 2009

    Actually, that’s a 50% increase in median survival. Had Arbitch actually been able to follow a simple hyperlink, he might have noticed, on the right-hand side of the page, a link to another study, but done over a longer time. This study noted an approximately 30% increase in median survival (from ~18 months to ~24 months) after the introduction of a new treatment.

  59. #59 Scientizzle
    October 26, 2009

    W. Kevin Vicklund, you are absolutely correct: 661 does amount to a 51.6% increase over 436.

    It’s a notable contrast to the recent Gonzalez Protocol study…

  60. #60 Militant Agnostic
    October 26, 2009

    Actually Arsebit if you followed these blog you would know that Orac doesn’t remove many breasts. In fact sometimes the biopsy is enough to remove the cancer. I think these alties project a lot – since alt med never changes in response to evidence and usually ignores any new scientific knowledge, they assume real medicine never progresses.

  61. #61 Sharon
    October 27, 2009

    It is always fascinating to me how we have no cure for cancer, yet Western medicine is so quick to discount any alternative theories of effective treatments.

    Certain fungi a well recognized to be some of the most potent carcinogens known to man. For example, the fungi aspergillus produces aflatoxins. They are very potent carcinogens. Aflatoxins have become a worldwide problem in our food supply. That is why we seeing such a crackdown the world over on bio-engineering. Seems we have created dominant strains of the little buggers.

    http://sustainablog.org/2009/10/02/food-supply-worries-of-an-agricultural-scientist-part-4-aflatoxin/

    I think that until Western medicine can scientifically prove they have the ability to cure cancer, then they have no right to naysay the words of Ms. Somers and others.

    It is common knowledge that physicians who obtain their licenses from traditional medical schools have about 4 hours of education regarding mycotic diseases.

    The situation reminds me of Steve Martin as Thedoric of York in the old Saturday Night Live skits, where leaches were his answer to everything.

  62. #62 Chris
    October 27, 2009

    Sharon:

    It is always fascinating to me how we have no cure for cancer, yet Western medicine is so quick to discount any alternative theories of effective treatments.

    Did you happen to notice the link discussed in the three to four comments just above your pithy fact-free remark?

    Oh, and random websites are not scientific evidence. Do try harder at learning facts, and not swinging insults.

  63. #63 Todd W.
    October 27, 2009

    @Sharon

    It is always fascinating to me how we have no cure for cancer

    Which one? Some cancers have no cures. Others do. One of the threads here mentioned some cancers that have cures.

    yet Western medicine is so quick to discount any alternative theories of effective treatments

    That would be because many alternative theories have no basis in reality. Those that have something to them and which are studied, go through clinical trials, etc. become medicine.

    It is common knowledge that physicians who obtain their licenses from traditional medical schools have about 4 hours of education regarding mycotic diseases.

    This is a non sequitur. Regardless, you have a citation for that?

  64. #64 Pablo
    October 27, 2009

    I think that until Western medicine can scientifically prove they have the ability to cure cancer, then they have no right to naysay the words of Ms. Somers and others.

    Let’s see…I cannot dunk a basketball. My 10 year old neighbor also cannot dunk a basketball. Thus, I have no right to say that I am a better basketball player than she is…

    I don’t know if that is the best analogy, but it is getting there.

    First: despite the claims of Suzanne Sommers, any criteria by which one would conclude that “western medicine” cannot cure cancer, one would also conclude that the alternatives can’t cure cancer either. Of course, as I’ve pointed out a few times, the biggest difference between “western medicine” and the cranks in Suzie Thighmaster’s book is that doctors actually will admit that their treatments are only going to prolong the inevitable, although they will do their best to prolong it as long as they can. And if all goes well, you will die before the cancer returns.

    OTOH, the loons in the book have no qualms about lying to you, making grand promises how they can cure you not only of cancer, but of all disease. All you need to do is take a shitload of pills each day and shove a Mr. Coffee up your keester. Of course, they can’t do that, but hey, at least they are willing to claim it.

    Treating cancer is a tough business, and unfortunately, cannot be broken down into cured and not-cured. My old grad school adviser lived 12 years with non-hodgekins lymphoma. He went through a lot of crap to try to beat it, but in the end, he succumbed. He was never cured.

    OTOH, through the efforts of western medicine, and several bouts of chemo, he survived years longer than he ever would have without it. He would have been dead either 12 years earlier, or 8 years before (his first relapse), or 3 years earlier. Each time, they kept him alive.

    Did the cure him? No. Did they help him? Absolutely.

  65. #65 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 27, 2009

    Certain fungi a well recognized to be some of the most potent carcinogens known to man. For example, the fungi aspergillus produces aflatoxins. They are very potent carcinogens. Aflatoxins have become a worldwide problem in our food supply. That is why we seeing such a crackdown the world over on bio-engineering. Seems we have created dominant strains of the little buggers.

    Um, did you actually read the blog you linked to? We created a dominant strain – that doesn’t produce the toxin! It was bio-engineering that solved the problem.

  66. #66 T. Bruce McNeely
    October 27, 2009

    It is common knowledge that physicians who obtain their licenses from traditional medical schools have about 4 hours of education regarding mycotic diseases.

    Common knowledge? I have seen this claim nowhere else, and I read a LOT of medical commentary. Besides, it’s not true. My Clinical Microbiology course had a lot more than 4 hours on mycotic illness. There were also discussions of mycotic illnesses in Pathology, Dermatology, Gynecology, Internal Medicine and Surgery. I’m sure the teaching hours for mycoses is even more nowadays, since mycoses are an increasing problem now that more people are surviving with immunosuppression, and also that there are new effective therapies.
    No cure for cancer? Lance Armstrong? Mario Lemieux?
    Mr. T?
    In conclusion, I retain the right to “naysay” know-it-all twits who know nothing.

  67. #67 Orac
    October 27, 2009

    I think that until Western medicine can scientifically prove they have the ability to cure cancer, then they have no right to naysay the words of Ms. Somers and others.

    Uh, “Western medicine” can cure quite a few cancers. True, it can’t cure many others, but Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be cured by chemotherapy. So can a number of other hematological malignancies. Breast, colon, and other cancers can often be cured with surgery, often followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Also, as pointed out above, any definition of a “cure” that says “Western” medicine can’t cure cancer would go double for “alternative medicine.”

    So, I claim the right to slap down Somers’ idiocy as long and as loud as I like. If you don’t like it, tough. The woman is peddling dangerous nonsense and needs to be called out for it.

  68. #68 James Sweet
    October 27, 2009
    I think that until Western medicine can scientifically prove they have the ability to cure cancer, then they have no right to naysay the words of Ms. Somers and others.

    Uh, “Western medicine” can cure quite a few cancers.

    Even if we ignore all that, this entire line of argumentation is retarded.

    I put forth the claim to you that I have a tiny leprechaun in my pants. Until YOU can scientifically prove that you also have a tiny leprechaun in YOUR pants, you have no right to naysay my words.

    Right?

  69. #69 Pablo
    October 27, 2009

    I put forth the claim to you that I have a tiny leprechaun in my pants.

    Leprechaun? Is that your name for it, James? Or your wife’s?

    (sorry for the lowbrow, but it had to be said)

  70. #70 Dianne
    October 27, 2009

    Pray tell, is there some sort of Protocols of the Elders of Allopathic Medicine you guys get this stuff from?

    Someone owes me a new monitor for coming up with this line.

  71. #71 EM Tech
    October 28, 2009

    Arbit said:
    …someone, somewhere in oncology has made a contribution in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer….and that would be?

    One word: Herceptin (acts on an erbB2-3 type receptor to Neuregulin… buckets of good research). Improves survival by 50% in many cases. Thank your local researcher.

  72. #72 albert rogers
    October 28, 2009

    I am horrified that some usually sensible members of the US Senate have voted to fund certain “alternative” medical approaches with insurance or government money.

    Jonathan Miller, who was a medical graduate before entering showbiz professionally, asserted in “The Body In Question” that the big difference between real medicine and more primitive studies is the keeping of exact records of treatment, failure, and success. That was how the medical profession, to its own vast astonishment, proved that 18th century remedies like bleeding, purging, and harsh emetics were usually worse for the patient than doing nothing. Doing nothing with plenty of mumbo-jumbo and water is what homeopathy is. So for a while it was better than the official medicine.
    Traditional medicine prescribed willow bark for pain. We now use acetyl-salicilic acid for mild cases. It’s also called aspirin. “salicilic” means “from the salix”, which is the willow tree. But it’s easier to obtain by pure chemistry.
    Likewise the bark of the cinchona tree is part of an old cure for malaria. The extract is called quinine, and it tastes horrible. Drug companies produce chemical analogues, equally effective against the parasite and not quite so horrible to swallow

    If there is a traditional medical approach, other than the amazingly powerful placebo effect, that can be proven effective in controlled trials, it becomes official medicine. The rest is humbug.

    Jonathan Miller also testified to the existence of a sort of negative placebo effect. In places where people believe in witchcraft, to be knowingly cursed by a powerful Witch can be lethal.

  73. #73 Nancy
    January 5, 2010

    I am a Senior Citizen and for 2 years I went to many specialists thinking I was dying..I was coughing up black nogels and no one could find what it was.

    I was living in Ma. and finally one Lung specialist asked me if I had ever lived in a desert setting, I had, Calif during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and Las Vegas for 2 years…after many tests and working my way to a Chinese Lung Specialist, he studied my situation and told me I had Valley Fever and also COPD, I never smoked, He said all I had to do was,…DRINK A LOT OF WATER! I did this for a few weeks and now I am fine…The COPD is under control and Valley Fever is non existant.