Respectful Insolence

[NOTE: Please be sure to read the addendum!]

I hate cancer quackery.

I know, I know, regular readers probably figured that out by now, and even new readers rarely take more than a couple of weeks to figure it out. That’s because cancer quackery is a frequent topic on this blog. One of the most powerful tools of persuasion that cancer quacks employ in promoting their quackery is something I call the cancer cure testimonial. Basically, a cancer cure testimonial is a story of a patient using alternative medicine and “curing” himself of cancer. Such testimonials come from both practitioners and patients, the latter of which are often the most powerful testimonials of all, stories that get passed around the alt-med blogosphere and around alt-med discussion forums like a joint at a Grateful Dead concert, with about the same results on the critical thinking skills of those inhaling their essence. There’s a good reason why one of the very earliest substantive posts that I wrote (and wrote nearly eight years ago, I might add) deconstructed a typical breast cancer cure testimonial. Since then, there has been a long and depressing litany of similar stories, from names that have become part of the history of this blog, many of which long time readers will remember. I’m referring to people like Suzanne Somers, Kim Tinkham, Hollie Quinn, Abraham Cherrix, a man named Chris, and several others, in particular a number of patients who succumbed to the blandishments of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski.

The reason that I take such an interest in these cases is three-fold. First, I’m a cancer surgeon. As I said before, I hate cancer quackery. As a result, these stories deeply disturb me, particularly when the end result is a potentially preventable death, as it was in Kim Tinkham’s case. Second, they all share a number of common elements that are worth examining. Examples commonly include confusing adjuvant chemotherapy, which decreases the chance of the tumor’s return, with primary therapy for the cancer, which can cure the cancer on its own. Adjuvant therapy can’t cure the cancer alone but it can decrease the risk of tumor recurrence after curative treatment. Not surprisingly, one major strain of alt-med testimonial consists of patients who undergo curative therapy but forego adjuvant chemotherapy in favor of quackery and conclude that the quackery saved their lives. Another major strain of such testimonials consists of stories in which it is impossible for a health care professional hearing the story to tell if there was even a diagnosis of cancer or in which the seriousness of the prognosis was probably not as bad as represented. Finally, these testimonials are almost invariably suffused with misinformation about real cancer therapy, and that misinformation is worth refuting with science. It’s also worth explaining how

All of which brings us to the latest alt-med testimonial of which I’ve become aware through, of course, one of the most prominently wretched hives of scum and quackery in the known universe, Mike Adam’s NaturalNews.com:

The story of former model Jessica Richards’ battle with cancer is a remarkable one, especially because it has defected from the use of conventional treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. In her book The Topic of Cancer, Richards explains how following a strict metabolic diet and receiving high-dose intravenous injections of vitamin C has helped successfully reverse the progression of her breast cancer, to the shock of many conventional doctors.

In case you’re not familiar with cancer quackery lingo, a “strict metabolic diet” is basically synonymous with the Gerson therapy or one of its variants, such as the Gonzalez protocol, which, it must be emphasized, are useless against cancer. High dose vitamin C is at best really, really wimpy against cancer and is more likely completely useless against it. Much of the story recounted by Adams drone Ethan Huff comes from this story in The Sun entitled I refused drugs and chemo to battle my breast cancer with fresh veg, which features a picture of a smiling, healthy-appearing Jessica Richards posing next to a big bowl of fruit and tells the following tale:

FOR thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer, chemotherapy is an unavoidable part of the course.

But Jessica Richards shocked loved ones when she turned down all the drugs normally prescribed to fight the disease.

She refused not only chemo, but also a mastectomy and radiotherapy advised by doctors.
Instead, the 55-year-old former model decided that what she needed was a complete diet overhaul.

Jessica, from Bedfordshire, England, who now works as a leadership mentor, cut out dairy, upped her vegetable intake and took high doses of vitamin C.

Within three weeks of starting her intensive regime, a scan showed her tumour had gone to sleep and her latest blood tests came back normal.

I knew this story was utter nonsense when I read this last sentence. Her tumor “went to sleep”? What does that even mean? Nothing, that’s what it means. For one thing, even the most effective chemotherapy won’t result in the “tumor going to sleep” within three weeks. Cancer biology is such that the only way to get rid of a solid tumor that fast is to cut it out. In fact, I’d be very curious to know what test, exactly, was used to tell that the tumor “had one to sleep.” Was it a PET scan? An MRI? Another important aspect of these sorts of testimonials is the frequent claim that “all my blood tests were normal.” Here’s some news: That is utterly meaningless when it comes to breast cancer. Tumor markers in breast cancer are notoriously unreliable, which is why oncologists often don’t even bother with them. Another consideration is that frequently these “negative blood tests” touted in testimonials as “proof” that the cancer is gone are blood tests administered by quacks that have no scientific validity.

Be that as it may, the most critical take-away message from the story above is that Richards’ tumor is not gone. It’s still there. Just like Kim Tinkham’s tumor. You might remember Kim Tinkham saying that her tumor was dormant, too. As it turned out, it wasn’t. It continued growing and ultimately killed her. It is quite possible, likely even, that Richards is deluding herself in just the same way.

Another aspect of these stories, which Richardson’s story has in spades, is the emphasis by the person telling the story trying to represent herself as completely rational, as having done research, as having come to a rational decision, as having based her decision on science. This narrative seems to be very important to the people telling these stories; the people telling them want to present themselves as not being loons. Of course, most of them aren’t. It’s possible (common, even) to be rational but to have cognitive blind spots that lead them do make disastrously wrong decisions that take them down disastrous roads. To boost her appearance of hyperrationality, Richards points out that she undertook this metabolic therapy under careful medical supervision, even naming her doctors. One of her doctors is Dr. Andre Young Snell, who is represented as having “had 15 years’ experience specialising in hospital medicine, where he gained a great deal of experience treating cancer patients as well as working in the breast care unit at St George’s Hospital in London.” What the reporter neglects to mention is that Dr. Snell now runs The Vision of Hope Clinic, which offers metabolic therapy quackery (complete with “natural nutritional therapy,” liposomal vitamin C, ozone and hyperthermia sauna sessions (including infrared sauna).

It’s true that Mark Kissin is a legitimate breast surgeon, but Dr. Carolin Hoffman appears to be heavily into “integrative medicine,” having published studies on topics such as mindfulness in breast cancer and works for a center touting “integrative medicine” and offering acupuncture and a wide range of quackery including Bach Flower remedies, craniosacral therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, homeopathy, reiki, reflexology, and more. It would appear that there’s no woo that this clinic doesn’t offer.

So let’s get back to the testimonial. Richards was, according to her account, diagnosed five years ago, in 2007. According to this report, it was diagnosed with mammography:

Having just turned 50, I’d been for a routine mammogram a week earlier which I’d known hadn’t gone well. Around five years before that I’d gone to my GP with a lump in my breast and after extensive tests I was given the all-clear.

This is very interesting and very relevant. Richards had noted a lump in her breast five years before being diagnosed, and it hadn’t changed. It was diagnosed five years ago, which means that she’s had the lump for at least ten years, likely longer given that it was probably there for at least a couple of years before she noticed it. Right away this tells me that, assuming she has cancer, Richardson probably has a pretty indolent, slow-growing cancer. Indeed, it might well be the sort of cancer that either doesn’t progress or progresses so slowly that it takes a long time to change appreciably. As I’ve discussed before, breast cancer can have a highly variable clinical course, and historical data show a small but not insignificant proportion of women (3.6%) surviving longer than ten years. When faced with a testimonial like Richards’ the most parsimonious explanation is not that some incredible, biologically incredibly implausible bit of woo cured her cancer, particularly given that, reading between the lines, I see her basically admitting that her tumor is still there. Rather, it’s that she’s either an incredibly lucky woman to have a very indolent cancer, one that isn’t progressing appreciably over a five year period, or that she might not have had cancer at all, given that the appears to have had this mass for at least ten years.

Of course, we don’t know anything about the tumor, at least not from this media account or from Richards’ website (and I’m sure not going to buy her book to see if she reveals more). As is often the case with such testimonials, it’s very hard to find any information at all about her case from sources that aren’t promoting alternative medicine or aren’t completely credulous, as the reporter who wrote the Sun story clearly was. At least with Suzanne Somers, it’s possible to find out quite a bit about her and her tumor just by doing some Googling. Not so with Jessica Richardson, which always makes me wonder about the story. I’d very much like to know whether the tumor was estrogen receptor-positive, HER2-positive, whether she was clinically node positive (had palpably suspicious lymph nodes under her arm), and the like. If I knew that information, I could comment a bit more knowledgeably about what might be going on here.

Testimonials like that of Jessica Richards represent the perfect storm of nonsense, laden with claims that the survival of a single cancer patient can tell us much of anything about the clinical effectiveness of a treatment. This is particularly true of a cancer like breast cancer, whose clinical course can be so variable and biological aggressiveness can be so different from woman to woman. Her story would be a lot more convincing, for instance, if she had been unequivocally diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, widely metastatic, undertook treatment with her “metabolic therapy,” and survived five years. Somehow, I’ve never seen that story in a form convincing enough that it makes me scratch my head and think that there might actually be something going on there. Jessica Richards’ case, as superficially convincing as it sounds, is far more likely the result of indolent cancer biology than it is because a Gerson therapy-like protocol cured her of an aggressive cancer.

ADDENDUM added after publication:

Commenter lilady supplied me this story featuring Jessica Richards in the Daily Mail, which describes her clinical course thusly:

The 54-year-old from Bedfordshire was diagnosed in 2007 with a 2.5cm Grade 2 ductal cancer after she noticed a change in a long-standing lump in her left breast.

‘Five years before I had a scan of the same breast and I was told the lump was benign,’ she says. ‘This time the mammogram said it was abnormal.

‘After a biopsy, the cancer was graded as invasive and there were cancer cells in one lymph node, a micro amount in another and my blood tests came back as normal. I was advised to have a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and a five-year programme of drug therapy as soon as possible.’

Jessica adds: ‘Rather than rush into anything, I took a step back. I spoke to doctors and radiologists, alternative therapists, went online and read a lot.

‘I knew I didn’t tolerate medicines well and felt chemotherapy would be disastrous. My blood tests kept coming back normal and I decided I would not go it alone with conventional treatment, but would have regular ultrasound scans and tests.’

A fan of alternative therapy, Jessica also took large amounts of vitamin C intravenously and altered her diet. Within a few weeks the lump had softened and began to break down.
Five years on, the lump is a tiny hard pip, she is fit and well, and has written a book, The Tropic Of Cancer, to share her experiences and knowledge.

The information in this story tells me as a breast surgeon that Richards almost certainly underwent a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy, the latter of which is a procedure in which dye is injected into the breast, gets taken up by the lymphatics, and identifies the lymph node(s) where the tumor would be most likely to go first. The lymph node(s) is/are then biopsied. SLN biopsy is the main method that breast surgeons use now to determine whether the cancer has traveled to the lymph nodes, and it’s unlikely that any surgeon would do an SLN in a patient diagnosed with breast cancer without also removing the primary tumor. In any event, the language she used to describe her lymph node status in the interview quoted above tells me right off the bat that it almost certainly was a sentinel lymph node biopsy and that she probably had isolated tumor cells in one lymph node (“cancer cells in one lymph node”) and micrometastases in the other (“Micro amount in another”). You usually can’t tell from just a needle biopsy of a lymph node that there are “cancer cells” in it or micrometastases; it takes an examination of the entire lymph node to be able to say that because the needle biopsy only samples a small part of the node and finding a micrometastasis or small cluster of tumor cells on a needle biopsy doesn’t rule out more tumor in the lymph node. In that case, we would simply say that lymph node metastases were found. Finally, it’s true that SLN biopsy is still sometimes performed in patients who are to undergo neoadjuvant chemotherapy in order to shrink their tumors before undergoing lumpectomy, but that appears not to be Richards, given that she reports that the recommendation was that she have a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.

Reading between the lines, I think that what happened is probably that Richards underwent an attempt at a lumpectomy, along with an SLN biopsy (which would be standard-of-care for a tumor that the surgeon deems amenable to complete removal as part of a lumpectomy), but that she had close or positive surgical margins (close margins mean that tumor cells are too close to the cut edge of the specimen removed; positive margin mean that there are tumor cells right at the cut edge of the specimen removed). Given that the tumor was fairly large, at that point the surgeon probably recommended mastectomy, rather than an attempt at a reexcising the lumpectomy area in order to try to clear the margins. At least, that’s how I put the story together now that I know the information in the article to which lilady pointed me.

Now that I know this, to me it’s looking more and more as though Jessica Richards is yet another case of a woo-prone woman with breast cancer confusing adjuvant chemotherapy with curative therapy. Indeed, now I’m pretty sure that she falls into the category of women who eschew adjuvant chemotherapy and lose the extra survival benefit it gives, but who are lucky enough to be cured by surgery. Moreover, also reading between the lines, note how Richards says that it was recommended that she undergo a “five year programme of drug therapy.” There’s only one kind of drug given for five years to treat breast cancer in the adjuvant setting, and that’s antiestrogen drugs, such as Tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors. Clearly, Richards’ tumor was estrogen-receptor positive, which is often consistent with a less aggressive, more indolent tumor.

If my take on this story is true, Richards is much more like Suzanne Somers and Hollie Quinn than she is like Kim Tinkham, which is good for her. The one wrinkle is that, if her margins were indeed positive (rather than just close), she has a very high chance of having a local recurrence in that breast in the area of her “biopsy” cum lumpectomy.

Comments

  1. #1 xyz
    August 21, 2012

    IV vitamin C continues to accrue papers and highly modulated adjunct versions with additive properties do not seem to have kicked in yet.

  2. #2 DurhamDave
    It's sunny up north?
    August 21, 2012

    Anything coming from the Sun should generally taken with a bit more salt than many newspaper stories. They are one of our more infamous tabloids after all.

  3. #3 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    August 21, 2012

    @DurhamDave

    For people not ‘in the know’ regarding the trustworthiness of a newspaper, they’ll assume the worst.

    Then again – folks who have the ‘anything but evidence based medicine’ mindset won’t care if it’s from a tabloid – because that just means big pharma paid off the regular papers from running it, etc.

  4. #4 herr doktor bimler
    August 21, 2012

    The Sun’s editorial policies do take it for granted that their target audience are interested in breasts.

  5. #5 Peebs
    August 21, 2012

    I’m surprised it was in the Sun at all.

    That kind of crap alt med story is usually found in our ever credulous Daily Mail.

  6. #6 JakeS
    August 21, 2012

    “The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
    […]
    Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.”

    – Yes Prime Minister

  7. #7 Mrs Woo
    August 21, 2012

    She’s the one who cured her eye by repeatedly “flicking a torch” (flashlight) at it, too. I suspect she is also the kind who hears only the very worst possibilities when given diagnosis and then assumes any improvement has come from the woo she pursued, not the body’s natural healing (which would have occurred with or without woo). I really hope that she doesn’t die of breast cancer at some point. :(

  8. #8 lilady
    August 21, 2012

    If you want Jessica’s REAL diagnosis…or maybe not so real diagnosis, you should have checked out the Daily Mail:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2037532/Does-breast-cancer-screening-harm-good.html

    “This is a scenario that motivational consultant Jessica Richards knows only too well.

    The 54-year-old from Bedfordshire was diagnosed in 2007 with a 2.5cm Grade 2 ductal cancer after she noticed a change in a long-standing lump in her left breast.

    ‘Five years before I had a scan of the same breast and I was told the lump was benign,’ she says. ‘This time the mammogram said it was abnormal.

    ‘After a biopsy, the cancer was graded as invasive and there were cancer cells in one lymph node, a micro amount in another and my blood tests came back as normal. I was advised to have a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and a five-year programme of drug therapy as soon as possible.’

    Jessica adds: ‘Rather than rush into anything, I took a step back. I spoke to doctors and radiologists, alternative therapists, went online and read a lot.

    ‘I knew I didn’t tolerate medicines well and felt chemotherapy would be disastrous. My blood tests kept coming back normal and I decided I would not go it alone with conventional treatment, but would have regular ultrasound scans and tests.’

    A fan of alternative therapy, Jessica also took large amounts of vitamin C intravenously and altered her diet. Within a few weeks the lump had softened and began to break down.

    Five years on, the lump is a tiny hard pip, she is fit and well, and has written a book, The Tropic Of Cancer, to share her experiences and knowledge.”

    She also has some *expertise* on other subjects, near and dear to our host Orac, which the twit tweets about. Guess if she *approves of* amalgam fillings or vaccines:

    http://199.16.156.72/jessicarichar11

  9. #9 Dangerous Bacon
    August 21, 2012

    “The 54-year-old from Bedfordshire was diagnosed in 2007 with a 2.5cm Grade 2 ductal cancer after she noticed a change in a long-standing lump in her left breast…
    ‘After a biopsy, the cancer was graded as invasive and there were cancer cells in one lymph node, a micro amount in another…A fan of alternative therapy, Jessica also took large amounts of vitamin C intravenously and altered her diet. Within a few weeks the lump had softened and began to break down…Five years on, the lump is a tiny hard pip…”

    As a pathologist, what I can surmise from this is that she had a long-standing mass, and a biopsy (either a needle core biopsy or removal of a larger volume of tissue) found a focus of invasive carcinoma. Without an excision there would be no way to know if the “2.5 cm” size applies to the entire mass or the focus of invasive carcinoma (you can have invasive carcinoma arising in the setting of fibrocystic disease, a fibroadenoma or other benign lesion causing a lump). The “softening” and “tiny hard pip” descriptions could relate to cystic degeneration and scarring, changes that often occur secondary to the biopsy procedure itself.
    The descriptions of lymph node findings are confusing. It sounds like there was cancer metastatic to one node and “micro” metastasis to another. You can tell if there is metastatic carcinoma in a lymph node by needle core biopsy, but micrometastasis is a determination that can only be made on a completely resected node. So did she have a sentinel lymph node dissection or complete axillary dissection? Hard to tell from the above account.
    It seems possible from the article’s description that she had her cancer and involved lymph nodes removed by surgery, and that the ensuing cancer-free period is due to that alone.

    Or maybe it was big bowls of fruit. Take your pick.

  10. #10 thenewme
    August 21, 2012

    Gee, I wonder if she just happens to earn affiliate income from her incessant posting of links to Mercola and Natural News.

    From a breast cancer standpoint, her repeated claims about blood test results are a big red flag. Blood test results don’t mean a whole lot in the scheme of things with regard to breast cancer, unless you’re promoting one of the quacky do-it-yourself internet-marketed blood tests that the alties are so fond of! Because, as they’ll tell you, medical doctors don’t know what to look for and only want to poison, burn, and cut you!

    My guess about her “scan” is a thermogram, which is a hugely popular diagnostic tool for quacks. They all swear by them as a great alternative to mammograms, since they’re so much more comfy and safer and have such pretty colors (!)! Never mind that little detail that they’re not useful or effective, as long as your “gut” tells you your tumor is just snoozing, you’ll be fine. Buy the book and it might even have a bonus chapter on how to balance your hormones with BHRT or grow younger or slimmer or cure everything that ails you!

    ACK.

  11. #11 Orac
    August 21, 2012

    @lilady

    Thanks. From the story you provide almost certainly Richards underwent a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy and appears not to understand that this is not a biopsy but curative surgery. SLN biopsy is the main way surgeons find out information about lymph node status, and it’s incredibly unlikely that any surgeon would do an SLN in a patient diagnosed with cancer without also removing the primary tumor, although it used to be done sometimes for patients who were to undergo neoadjuvant chemotherapy before to shrink their tumors before undergoing lumpectomy. I suppose it’s also possible that they did a needle biopsy of the tumor and of suspicious lymph nodes and got the information that way, but I bet that’s probably not what went down.

    It’s looking more and more as though Richards falls into the category of eschewing adjuvant chemotherapy and losing the extra survival benefit, but being lucky enough that the surgery cured her. I’ll update the post later to reflect this information that I didn’t come across.

  12. #12 Denice Walter
    August 21, 2012

    From the quotes above, I take it that she decided to not undergo chemotherapy/ drug therapy but she conveniently doesn’t talk about surgery.. so it’s possible she had surgery.

    As a psychologist, I’m interested in the effect her tale has on her audience. I can’t say whether she is *deliberately* mis-leading them or not- but she is mis-leading them. Like Suzanne Somers, she attributes her ‘cure’ to alt med treatments and dietary interventions.

    Remember that readers’ reactions to stories like these don’t occur in a vacuum ( I conveniently leave out the anticipated joke) but her testimony adds to an accumulating ‘body of evidence’ ( collection of tales) that they’re already heard: SBM treatments don’t work; alt med has easier, better cures; doctors don’t know anything and miracles occur on a regular basis. Notice where her stories are printed/ posted: I venture that regular readers are her prime audience.

    Unfortunately, those seduced by woo tend to cluster around their enticers and shy away from reality-based information. Sites like those I survey have increasingly ramped up vitriolic aspersions on SBM: it is alarming to hear ( via PRN audio archives) the entranced speak to the source, displaying their cumulative education in alt med- doctors, pharmaceuticals and governmental agencies are not to be trusted while prevaricating, grandiose, malapropising sellers of useless products and dangerous information ARE.

  13. #13 lilady
    August 21, 2012

    Here’s a *testimonial* about Kangen Water, from Jessica Richards…self promote, much?

    http://www.ecotekgroup.com/testimonials/

  14. #14 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    August 21, 2012

    “Gee, I wonder if she just happens to earn affiliate income from her incessant posting of links to Mercola and Natural News.”

    I thought this was a joke. It’s not – they really do both offer affiliate schemes. So, accepting money from Big Quacka is fine, while accusing rational people of being in the pay of Big Pharma is OK then?

    Interestingly, The Sun is owned by Murdoch’s News Corp – which also owns The Times and The Sunday Times – the very papers that Age Of Autism keep trying to go after with cries of “Big Pharma Influence” – after James Murdoch was appointed to the board of GlaxoSmithKlein (IIRC) – in order so smear Brian Deer and clear St Andrew of Wakefield.

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    August 21, 2012

    @ Rebecca Fisher:

    Some people around RI spell ‘Wakefield’ a bit differently.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    August 21, 2012

    Ooops! -btw- don’t shoot me but I own shares in News Corp..
    explains my point of view.

  17. #17 Rebecca Fisher
    August 21, 2012

    @Denise Walter

    “Spell” or “describe”? I’ve certainly described him in many other ways at JabsLoonies… ;-)

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    August 21, 2012

    @ Becky:

    SPELL… e.g. Wankfield, Snakefield et al. A few others that escape me at present.
    For descriptive purposes, I prefer “Data Fixer”.

  19. #19 Eric Lund
    August 21, 2012

    So, accepting money from Big Quacka is fine, while accusing rational people of being in the pay of Big Pharma is OK then?

    It’s called projection. Whatever your side is doing, you accuse the other side of doing, whether or not you have any evidence they are doing it. If “it” is something that is ethically questionable or worse, so much the better. Countering such a tactic is often difficult, which is why many of the more unscrupulous politicians in the US employ this tactic.

    In this case, if you’re pressed on it, point out that you are backing David (or rather, that David is backing you) against a big evil corporate Goliath. Projection is more effective when you can portray your enemy as Evil Incarnate.

  20. #20 Rebecca Fisher
    August 21, 2012

    @Denice

    These days I quite like “Mr Fraudytrousers”.

  21. #21 Shay
    back from touring battlefields
    August 21, 2012

    I prefer “murdering scumbag.”

    (actually I prefer something that would take advantage of the vocabulary I picked up in the Marines, but I’ll be nice).

  22. #22 Orac
    August 21, 2012

    Addendum added to account for lilady’s article.

  23. #23 flip
    August 21, 2012

    One thing that never gets discussed with these testimonials:

    How come these average people manage to get noticed by the media, who are usually overflowing with press releases sent to them by normal businesses anyway?

    How come these average people even get noticed by a single reporter who are more likely to report on something of more importance (well, important being relative anyway) like politics or wars?

    There are 2 possibilities:

    1. Journalists who are getting more and more squeezed out from doing actual legwork manage to do it anyway and find some human interest story via some investigation.

    2. They are approached directly by these people in order to tell their story, and for some unfathomable reason the media goes with it. (This is more likely since it requires very little to receive a press release, run it through an editor, then go out and do an interview)

    The cynic in me thinks perhaps these aren’t so much news reports that get picked up from community to mainstream newspapers… but rather plants by Big Alties to promote something. Or that the reporter already has an agenda or a friend with one.

    I knew I didn’t tolerate medicines well

    One could also cynically think that as a model, she didn’t want to lose her fading good looks… like her breasts.

  24. #24 lilady
    August 21, 2012

    (Okay, okay. Color me *suspicious*)

    The Natural News article that Orac commented on is dated August 16, 2012 and left out several important facts, when compared to the Mail Online article, written eleven months earlier on September 15, 2011…which contained greater detail about the stage of her cancer, the breast cancer’s estrogen sensitivity and the needle biopsy (or lumpectomy?) the “needle biopsies” of the sentinel node and an adjacent node.

    Apparently during that interview eleven months ago, she stated she had, following needle biopsies, been told she had one positive node and micro-metastases in another node. Orac explained in his addendum that both lymph nodes were removed and biopsied.

    Why the discrepancies in the both articles? Perhaps she wanted to promote her book…by claiming that she rejected all diagnostic tests.

    Of course, if Jessica would like to explain these discrepancies to us, her posts would be a welcome addition to this blog.

  25. #25 bad poet
    August 21, 2012

    The Daily Fail is hardly a trustworthy news source. Anyway, the estate of Arthur Miller should be notified of copyright infringement issues with respect to “The Tropic of Cancer”, IMNSHO.

  26. #26 Denice Walter
    August 21, 2012

    Sorry to correct but HENRY Miller..
    The two had slightly different interests

  27. #27 lilady
    August 21, 2012

    I came across this book on Amazon, written by Jessica.

    Scroll down to see the same title, “Topic of Cancer”, written by another author…oops.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Topic-Cancer-Jessica-Richards/dp/0957064403

  28. #28 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    August 21, 2012

    I noticed Jessica’s book is already out of print, even though it’s self-published. You’d imagine she’d have cases of them in unopened boxes in her garage. Wonder what’s up with that?

  29. #29 Narad
    August 21, 2012

    Anyway, the estate of Arthur Miller should be notified of copyright infringement issues with respect to “The Tropic of Cancer”, IMNSHO.

    Ya canna copyright a title, lad!

    (I also thought this was amusing, but mostly because of the obscenity trial.)

  30. #30 flip
    August 22, 2012

    @MSII

    Self-publishing usually means print-on-demand, which also usually means ordering less copies than most publishers would. Big publishers usually order thousands in a single run, POD allows ordering as few as a handful, and as many as hundreds.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if she ordered very few because she couldn’t afford to publish more; and those sold already have gone to friends, family and whoever her fans are.

    (I am not a publisher/author… but I do know a bit about POD)

  31. #31 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    August 22, 2012

    In the old days of the vanity press, part of the “con” was that the printer sold you a minimum of several thousand copies and you (the author) then had the responsibility to unload them. But you’re right, modern printing technology has changed that.

    You’d think she’d just sell some sort of e-book and eliminate the printing altogether.

  32. #32 lilady
    August 22, 2012

    Apparently, you can buy Jessica’s book here…along with a super deluxe juicer and “The Little Enema Book” authored by the Gerson Support Group.

    http://www.wholisticresearch.com/shop/home/m/Shop/id/1143/page/1/

  33. #33 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    August 22, 2012

    Alright, I thought you were joking about The Little Enema Book.

    Sigh. You weren’t.

  34. #34 flip
    August 22, 2012

    @MSII

    It could be a perception thing. Most people tend not to realise that books can be printed via “vanity press” or POD, so having an actual hard copy seems more respectable than an ebook. It’s also harder to hand over autographed copies and act like it’s some big thing. (Not to denigrate POD, because I know a lot of great authors who wouldn’t get a publisher simply because it’s harder to get noticed these days)

    Vanity press still exists; it’s just with the advent of newer technologies and ebooks. Vanity press = print on demand these days. You just have less copies to be conned into buying :)

  35. #35 herr doktor bimler
    August 22, 2012

    I recall Bergen Evans having a great deal of fun writing about the popularity of enemas among the fringe-medicine lunatics and snake-oil charlatans of his time, in “The Spoor of Spooks”. That was, let’s see, 1954. Ah, progress!

  36. […] Besides, for whatever reason, the blog fodder is flying at my fast and furious, whether it be the dubious testimonial I discussed yesterday, yet another deconstruction of the moral bankruptcy that is Stanislaw Burzynski, or my take on the […]

  37. #37 Calli Arcale
    August 23, 2012

    Herr docktor: I’m fond of the P. G. Wodehouse translation of Molieres “La malade imaginaire” (“The Imaginary Invalid”). The closing scene has the titular hypochondriac conned into thinking he’s being made into a doctor, which will enable him to prescribe any medications he wants to himself without the nuisance or expenditure of hiring a doctor. His daughter and her beau have persuaded a troupe of gypsies to pretend to be the Enlightenment equivalent of a medical board and confer a doctorate upon him. It’s all done in dog Latin, and in Wodehouse’s translation, includes this lovely line, proffered as the Invalid’s suggested treatment for almost everything:

    Givum an enema againema!

  38. #38 Mrs Woo
    August 23, 2012

    Love it Calli! :)

  39. #39 bluedevilRA
    August 23, 2012

    sorta related to cancer quackery: orac, you may be interested in tackling this new piece on the HuffPo:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/16/second-act-mom-medical-school_n_1791336.html#slide=more244843

    pretty typical cancer altmed story. cancer was bad. patient was treated with conventional therapy and alt med. patient got better. must be the alt med that did it! i’d be very interested to hear your take on it. thanks!

  40. […] deconstructions was about this very topic. It’s a topic that’s come up again and again, even quite recently. To make a long story short, many breast cancer cure testimonials involve either lesions that are […]

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