Cassandra Callender, the teen who refused chemotherapy, speaks out to a quack

A recurring topic on this blog involves my discussion of stories about children with cancer whose parents refuse chemotherapy, thus endangering the children's lives. These stories usually take this general form: The child is diagnosed with a deadly, but treatable cancer that has a high probability of cure with proper chemotherapy. The child receives the first round of chemotherapy. The parents can't deal with the side effects. If they are woo-prone, they make the decision to use "natural healing" or some form of alternative medicine. Sometimes it's in response to the child's request. Sometimes it's their decision. Sometimes it's impossible to tell, given how much influence parents have over their children. Whatever the situation, the next step is usually that the authorities get involved. A judge orders the parents to treat their child. Once that happens, the alternative medicine woo-niverse goes nuts with cries of "medical fascism," lies about how whatever quackery has been chosen to treat the child has a better chance of curing him than chemotherapy, and, of course, rants about "cut, poison, burn."

The best resolution to these stories involves the court and doctors coming to an agreement in which the parents voluntarily make sure the child receives the needed chemotherapy. This happened with, for example, Daniel Hauser. Sometimes this happens after treatment has been delayed and the cancer has recurred, as was the case with JJ, an aboriginal girl in Canada who refused chemotherapy last year. In such cases, the chances of the child's death increase dramatically. The worst possible outcome is that the child dies, as happened in the case of Makayla Sault. In between are situations that remain unresolved in which the child involved hasn't received any more chemotherapy yet but hasn't died yet, such as the case of Sarah Hershberger. Another possible outcome is that the child is forced to undergo chemotherapy, an outcome that doctors and nurses do not like because forcing a patient to receive treatment goes against our natures. The perfect example of this last outcome is a girl named Cassandra Callender.

I wrote about Cassandra Callender's case in January, and even to me it is a bit of a troubling case. The reason is that Cassandra was 17 years old, which is old enough that she is almost of legal age to make her own medical decisions. Whether it was her decision, that of her woo-prone mother Jackie Fortin, or a joint decision, Cassandra refused chemotherapy and her mother backed her decision. Because Cassandra was a minor and won't turn 18 until this fall, the judge ordered that she undergo chemotherapy, and she was kept involuntarily in the hospital in order to make that happen. As regular readers know, invariably in cases of younger children and even teens, I come down hard on the side of doing everything to save the life of the child. In this case, I was a little less certain—but just a little—because of how old Cassandra was. As I like to say, competent adults can choose any quackery or treatment they want, and Cassandra is almost an adult. However, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and legally she wasn't an adult yet; so I could justify forcing her treatment.

Now, here it is, several months later, and Cassandra has been released from the hospital. Predictably, the cancer quackery brigade wanted to interview her, and they did, presumably with the permission of her mother given that Cassandra is still not quite 18. Also not surprisingly, it was cancer quackery promoter Ty Bollinger who interviewed her for the the quack website The Truth About Cancer under the predictably histrionic title The Medical Kidnapping of Cassandra C (Finally The Truth Revealed) – The Truth About Cancer Exclusive Interview. Also not surprisingly, the same video was hosted at NaturalNews.com:

It's a disturbing listen.

The first thing we learn is that Cassandra's diagnosis was delayed, perhaps because of an atypical presentation. She had severe abdominal pain and was worked up, but, according to her, the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. Then her primary care doctor felt a very enlarged lymph node "the size of a golf ball" and treated it with antibiotics. It didn't go away. So what happened next sounds like a series of needle biopsies, which apparently didn't provide enough tissue for diagnosis. Ultimately a surgical biopsy was performed, which, according to Cassandra, "looked like" Hodgkin's lymphoma but that they weren't sure.

Reading between the lines, I tend to think that what happened here is that Cassandra and her mother didn't really believe the diagnosis. Cassandra tells of going to another hospital "for another biopsy" and being told that it wasn't necessary. Now, there's nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. In fact, I almost always recommend it for my breast cancer patients if they are the least bit uncertain. However, it sounds as though what happened is that there was a second opinion that agreed with the first opinion, which recommended immediate chemotherapy. Clearly, Cassandra didn't like her second opinion, because she keeps going on and on about wanting a second opinion but saying that Baystate wouldn't do it for them. In reality, her definition of a second opinion appears to have been another biopsy and any opinion that didn't involve another biopsy wasn't a "real" second opinion to her. Indeed, later in the interview, she basically says as much, admitting that the doctors were sure about the diagnosis and telling Bollinger that the refusal of the doctors to do another biopsy made her suspicious.

In any case, Cassandra didn't want chemotherapy, justifying her decision based on the long term effects of chemotherapy:

I was reading into it. They were saying possible organ failures and and difficulty doing physical activity the rest of my life, and I didn't want that when I knew that there was homeopathic and natural ways of treating cancer.

Sadly, this is a very common rationale, fear of long term chemotherapy side effects. It's not an unreasonable fear. However, when the alternative is death, the possibility of such long term side effects is not as unreasonable as it would be for a disease that was not so immediately life-threatening. It's also a false equivalency. Sure, homeopathic treatments for cancer will be a hell of a lot less toxic. In fact, unless they're contaminated, they'll be nontoxic because they're basically water. Of course, they also won't do anything to treat the cancer. Cassandra would have felt much better taking homeopathy than taking five months of chemotherapy; that is, until her cancer progressed to the point of causing severe symptoms, which it inevitably would have.

Now one thing that I find hard to believe and, if true, disturbing, is Cassandra's account that twelve squad cars's worth of police and Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) case workers came to take her to the hospital. Certainly, this sounds like massive overkill unless there was reason to believe that there might be violent resistance. Her mother wasn't there, either; so all we have is Cassandra's word for the story. She also tells a story of running away from a foster home and the police threatening to put her mother in jail. How much of the story is accurate is, again, impossible to tell; it's only one side of the story, and her doctors are bound by patient confidentiality and cannot tell their side of the story. I do believe her account of being forced to undergo port placement. It sounds as though she really fought the medical staff until they were able to sedate her.

We also learn that Cassandra's cancer might not have been completely eradicated. She refers to a PET scan she had in July that "didn't look good" and how she's waiting for new scans. Not surprisingly, this leads Bollinger and Cassandra—but particularly Bollinger—to express disgust that "they" forced Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy and yet there might be some cancer left. Well, as far as the chemotherapy goes, Bollinger needs to get over it. No treatment is 100% successful, and sometimes the first cycle doesn't completely eradicate the disease. Cassandra relates that in February they thought she was in remission but in July her scan "wasn't clear" and there was something that lit up. The doctors aren't sure what it is. That, of course, is why chemotherapy for lymphoma requires so many cycles. We found out the hard way decades ago that just one cycle leaves the patient with an unacceptably high risk of recurrence. it takes multiple courses, including initiation, consolidation, and maintenance therapy, to reduce the risk of recurrence as much as possible.

That's why in Cassandra's case I really, really hope that there is no residual disease visible on her followup scans. If there is, she's as good as dead, not because residual Hodgkin's disease can't be successfully treated but rather because she will be turning 18 on September 30. When that happens, there's no doubt that she will immediately abandon conventional treatment of her cancer and start using some form of quackery or other. Indeed, before then, she will be getting a lawyer and that alone would almost certainly successfully delay any medical treatment until after she turns 18, when she can refuse it. She basically says that that's what she will do.

One particularly despicable aspect of this video comes at the 19:20 mark, when Bollinger promises Cassandra that he can help her and show her ways to remain cancer-free, while offering to help to get her to September 30 without having to take chemotherapy. To this Cassandra responds that she has seen people who have used "natural and homeopathic" cancer treatments and that it worked. There is, however, a statement that is key to understanding how people choosing alternative medicine to treat cancer. Bollinger states that he thinks the "right" to choose natural healing is a fundamental human right, to which Cassandra responds:

I think it's true. Either way I'm still doing something for my health. A lot of people in media have misinterpreted, saying that I wanted to die of cancer instead of treatment, but that's not true. I simply didn't want the chemotherapy, something that was less harmful to your body. Cancer is harmful enough to your body. Why would you want to add more to that?

Later, she says:

I never wanted to die. I wanted another way to live.

Cassandra also has a fundamental misunderstanding of chemotherapy and cancer:

Your statistics drop if you do chemo and then have to do it for a second time. I had an 85% survival and that won't be the same if I have to do it a second time. And if they couldn't cure me at 85, I don't have any hope that they could do it for anything lower with chemotherapy.

Notice how she attributes the the lower survival rate in patients who relapse after treatment to the second cycle of chemotherapy, rather than to having disease that was too resistant to be eradicated by the first course of chemotherapy. I can undersand lacking faith that a second round of chemotherapy could cure her after the first one failed; that's understandable even in patients who accept science and conventional therapy. But her relapse—if relapse it is—is an indication of bad disease with a bad prognosis. It's not the chemotherapy that made it that way. It's the fact that she has stage III-IV Hodgkin's disease, as she reveals on her GoFundMe page.

Indeed, Cassandra demonstrates magical thinking at every level. She thinks that there really is another effective way to eradicate her cancer "naturally" or with homeopathy. There isn't. Would that there were! I mean, seriously. If there were, doctors would be falling all over themselves to use them, because we don't like having to give patients drugs that cause severe toxicity and then dealing with that toxicity and watching our patients suffer.

Cassandra's had her best shot at surviving her cancer, thanks to science and conventional medicine. Given how close she is to turning 18, there will be no more, and she knows it. Indeed, she and Bollinger discuss how she should engage in a delaying action, pushing tests, appointments, and scans back as far as possible, so that there is less time for her to receive any treatment again. Cassandra even notes that if it's only three weeks before her 18th birthday no judge is likely to order her to undergo treatment when it will stop in three weeks anyway. So there's no doubt in my mind that, if Cassandra's cancer really has recurred, she will receive no further treatment because she will successfully run out the clock. Instead, she'll go to Ty Bollinger, who will hook her up with practitioners who will detox her, give her laetrile and/or sodium bicarbonate and/or medical marijuana, put her on an alkaline diet, and subject her to whatever cancer quackery sounds most appealing.

That's all the more reason to hope against hope that her scans show no evidence of cancer. If she does still have cancer, sadly, she'll be as good as dead, and her death will not be pleasant. That it will also probably be unnecessary is the greatest tragedy of all.

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The part that enrages me the most is that, if her cancer had recurred and she dies the quacks will cry in outrage about chemo killing the girl and how she'd be alive if not for the murderous judge.

I'd say, that maybe it would have been better if her first refusal of chemotherapy was picked up by mainstream media and successful, then it would be impossible to blame the doctors for poisoning her against her will and for qucks to try and make them guilty. But it's not like that would make anyone see that natural and homeopathic therapy does not work for cancer. Instead they'd blame the poor girl for not following Gerson well enough to some such BS. So lets just hope that shot for living she got with 1st round of chemo was enough.

By The Smith of Lie (not verified) on 17 Aug 2015 #permalink

There are now two possible outcomes: she will die and the quacks will blame chemo, or she will survivie and they will credit their quackery. I can't think of a third option.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 17 Aug 2015 #permalink

Guy@2: Pretty much, it's a time-honored pattern. TBH, I think the original court was wrong in its decision given her age: there wasn't much point starting treatment against her will unless there's a high chance of completing it before she turned 18. If medics are stuck for something to do, there's no shortage of other deserving cases out there who will thank them for it.

Better to let one idiot choose to kill herself and provide a warning to all the others than let her kill herself and give the kooks and crooks a martyr and marketing for their cause. There's another 7 billion on this overcrowded rock - half of whom would gnaw off a leg to be given half the opportunities this cretin has had - so ultimately she won't be missed.

As for the cancer quacks who prey upon such desperate fools, what a shame the US doesn't have legislation like the UK Cancer Act. Ah well, fingers crossed, there's always the Second Amendment...

The story of the biopsies is not unusual. In Hodgkin's Disease, the neoplastic cells, Reed-Sternberg cells, are often a small minority of the cell population in the lymph nodes, being accompanied by large numbers of reactive lymphocytes, plasma cells, eosinophils, and histiocytes. A small biopsy such as a core or an FNA can easily miss them. Also, we cannot diagnose Hodgkin's by flow cytometry. The proportion of neoplastic cells falls below the threshold of detection. An excisional biopsy is often necessary.

By Michael Finfer, MD (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

Also, PET scans are far from perfect when it comes to evaluating presence of tumor. Inflammation or infection can cause false-positives. So we can't tell from this report of a doubtful PET scan whether there's any residual Hodgkin's.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

has @3,

Obviously we're all frustrated and infuriated by the cancer quacks, some of the most despicable people on the planet, but you go way too far. How much does a 17-year-old know about science, medicine, disease? Some know quite a lot, but those are few and far between. How can you blame Cassandra Callender for not being able to correctly distinguish between genuine medical advice and the smooth, reassuring lies of professional fraudsters?

Cassandra Callender is likely to die young and in pain, and she doesn't necessarily have to. But I find your comment very offensive. Being fooled by experienced con artists does not make you an idiot, nor does it make your life worth less. If you're just venting, that's one thing, but if you genuinely mean any of that, I hope you're not involved in medicine.

@pickwick

I defiantly see your point. I also agree with you partially. How much does an 18 yr old know though? Or even most adults. Reading this blog is proof that most people in general dont know what the hell is going on in their body. This case i feel will hurt out cause instead of help it.

By jonnybdead (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

Ah well, fingers crossed, there’s always the Second Amendment…

Um, no. You do NOT want to go there. The Second Amendment works both ways, and I fear it is much more likely that somebody will apply such a remedy against a real doctor than a cancer fraudster. Many of the woo-prone in this country are also vulnerable to the sort of political charlatan who would advocate Second Amendment solutions.

US laws on the subject could use some tightening, true. But that is not likely to happen with the current Congress. (The opposite of Progress.) And the federal agencies who would be responsible for enforcing the law, whether as it is or in an alternate universe where your dream legislation has been enacted, are chronically underfunded, so they can only afford to go after the most egregious and easily provable cases. Most woo-pushers, unfortunately, are smart enough to avoid attracting that kind of attention, and for every one that isn't and manages to be convicted, there is at least one more waiting in the wings.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

# 3 has

UK Cancer Act

I like it.

# 6 Pickwick

I disagree. has is right. Given the girl's age, the compulory treatment did not make a lot of sense. If she wants to commit suicide there is no way to prevent it. Itwould have been a lot easier on the medical staff who almost surely are traumatized and it would not give the quacks more ammo.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

Pickwick -- Maybe I'm not reading closely enough, but I didn't see Orac "blaming" Cassandra for anything, nor calling her an "idiot". I fail to see what's offensive about his careful and nuanced exploration of the way she's thinking, and how it's likely to have a very bad outcome.

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

Watching the entire video was pretty painful. It's clear that she has been completely sucked into the whirlpool of cancer quackery. It makes me sad for all concerned, particularly that no one from hospital personnel to DFC staff were able to reason with her. I wonder why she is even having PET scans now; are they being ordered because she is still under state authority?
I also went to Ty Bollinger's website. He appears to be a graduate of Google university since he has no formal education in cancer care. His website doesn't have stuff for sale, though he does direct people to other websites, including "charities" (are they really?). What is the source of his income? It would appear that the deaths of both parents had a lot to do with driving him into the arms of the quacks.
It was also alarming when he prodded her to sue the people who forced her to get medical care. I can just see some opportunistic lawyer getting their hands on this and possibly making a lot of money. Can any of the lawyers here comment on whether she has a case?
Since she seems to have completed the first course of chemo, when she was given an 85% chance of survival, does the fact that PET scans show recurrence drive her into a lower survival bracket, or does the 85% apply to anyone who was diagnosed and treated from the beginning?

By cloudskimmer (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

jrkrideau,

On reflection, I do agree with you and has on that point, in #3's first paragraph. It must be awful for any medical team to have to stand back and let a preventable death occur.

I still violently disagree with the entirety of the second paragraph:

"Better to let one idiot choose to kill herself and provide a warning to all the others than let her kill herself and give the kooks and crooks a martyr and marketing for their cause. There’s another 7 billion on this overcrowded rock – half of whom would gnaw off a leg to be given half the opportunities this cretin has had – so ultimately she won’t be missed."

That is an ugly way of thinking.

jonnybdead, I agree, most adults don't know much about what goes on in their bodies; they're not tremendously different from 17-year-olds in that respect. To my mind, that only makes it more important to acknowledge that it is generally not the fault of the person who's fooled by the medical fraudster when they choose a false remedy and die for it. The fraudster is to blame.

In a world as awash with mis- and dis-information as this, it's hard for a layperson to sift through it all and figure out their options, even with a doctor's help. And it's never harder to be rational than when a dread disease is looming on the horizon. People are easiest to fool when they're desperate, and it's despicable to demean them for it.

Instilling tools of rational thought, spreading knowledge of medical issues, and shining light on quacks and quackeries, as SBM and RI do, are ways to push back.

I tend to agree with Pickwick. Cassandra is a kid whose been misled, primarily by her mother. I feel really sorry for her because her delusions will probably cause her a lot of misery and an early death. If she thinks the chemo was bad and unnatural, wait until the coffee enemas begin. Unfortunately cancer is natural, and so is death, even for a young person like her. Many intelligent people are misled by persuasive quacks; that's a major reason why they need to be stopped from making unsupported claims to desperate people. It's fraud, and fraud should be criminally prosecuted.

By cloudskimmer (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

pickwick @6 and 12 -- Ach, I'm sorry, I missed that you were responding to "has" @3, and I completely agree with you. And also with Eric Lund objecting to the mention of "second amendment solutions", which is about as horrible a euphemism as I know of.

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

Given what the outcome likely will be, the advice given to her is like aiding and abetting suicide, which isn't legal either. I too agree with Pickwick that educating and exposing these practices is the way to go. I would love to see stats on alt med cancer survival vs conventional treatment compiled and given high media exposure. But deep down I know, you can lead a horse to water...

@pickwick

I agree 100%. Just last week i had a conversation on SBM about this. It is an uphill battle trying to spread the word about science based medicine and critical thinking. The true believers are extremely hard to sway. However if we can get to those before they are completely sucked in, we might be able to save some that way.

By jonnybdead (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

"She thinks that there really is another effective way to eradicate her cancer “naturally” or with homeopathy. There isn’t. Would that there were! I mean, seriously. If there were, doctors would be falling all over themselves to use them, because we don’t like having to give patients drugs that cause severe toxicity and then dealing with that toxicity and watching our patients suffer."

This is what I try to say over and over to people who have gotten the belief that doctors are deliberately withholding effective "alternative" treatments. I try to remind people that doctors are human beings, that they know people in medicine personally, and it's unlikely that are enough sadistic monsters to accomplish what the quack conspiracy theorists propose.

Mostly my exhortations have had a homeopathic (zero) effect.

By Brian Buchbinder (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

She thinks that there really is another effective way to eradicate her cancer “naturally” or with homeopathy. There isn’t. Would that there were! I mean, seriously. If there were, doctors would be falling all over themselves to use them, because we don’t like having to give patients drugs that cause severe toxicity and then dealing with that toxicity and watching our patients suffer.

This is one of the things I find hardest to forgive in alt med proponents. Nestled in among all the deep concern about healing and nature and patients and respecting the right to "choose" is a dark and nasty judgment aimed directly at the medical mainstream. They seem to want to believe that most doctors are sociopaths who carelessly choose money over cure, value power over care, and subsequently enjoy watching their patients suffer.

And then they try to couple this with the "nonjudgmental" stance of the open-minded and see no contradiction. Makes me sick, it does.

Every time I hear someone exposuing the exstence of a huge, worldwide conspiracy to hide a cure for cancer, I want to remind them that ex-head of the CIA David Petraeus couldn't even cover up an extramarital affair, something other less-highly-placed married men have managed to do successfully through the years.

Our governments just aren't that competent.

shay@1304

And then they try to couple this with the “nonjudgmental” stance of the open-minded and see no contradiction. Makes me sick, it does.

The really sick thing is that when things go wrong quacks are always first to abdicate responsibility and blame the patient, we've seen it time and again. When my patients have bad outcomes I always wonder if I could have done something better. I imagine most healthcare workers have those thoughts to some degree or other. Plus you have CQI initiatives that look to identify and correct problems that result in poor outcomes in a formal manner. That's part of the reason science based medicine moves forward while quacks remain quacks.

RE: Cassandra
She's been led astray by her mother and conmen like Bollinger. I don't think the courts should have mandated treatment but I can't help but feel for her. Sure she's almost an adult but I imagine she's been fed altie crap for most of her life. Plus anyone of any age who gets a serious diagnosis is particularly vulnerable. The fraudsters are leading her to her death and her mother is absolutely complicit. I can only hope that she beats the odds and one round of did it.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

This case is an excellent example of the problem with homeschooling. The educators are not regulated. They don't even have to be educated. This girl was home schooled by someone incapable of understanding science, much less teaching it. As soon as either of them started spouting nonsense about "natural alternatives". She is guilty of both educational and medical neglect. The state should have stepped in a long time ago. If this girl dies the mother is culpable. However the state of CT shares the blame as well, for allowing an unqualified individual to falsely claim she was educating the child.

Sorry. As soon as either of them started spouting nonsense about "natural alternatives" to chemo, the child should have been forced to attend a real school.

JGC @19 -- The title of the biography of Petraeus that was written by the woman later revealed to be his lover was, in retrospect, wonderfully salacious:

All In

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

I'm completely amazed at the number of people that accept quackery despite all the evidence to the contrary. My sister in law was recently diagnosed with rectal cancer with possible mets to the lung. My brother reached out to me to get information about what lies ahead (lost my wife to breast cancer last year). The first thing I told them was to ignore those that recommend altmed....they would come out of the woodwork...and trust their medical team completely. And get second opinions. He assured me they would, but alas, my SIL posted a pic of herself on Facebook...drinking carrot juice and expanding on her new "diet."

She thinks that there really is another effective way to eradicate her cancer “naturally” or with homeopathy. There isn’t. Would that there were!

Exactly. If there were a treatment for Cassandra's condition that were safer and more effective than chemotherapy, we wouldn't be having this discussion, because her doctors would be recommending that treatment instead.

[Woo pushers] seem to want to believe that most doctors are sociopaths who carelessly choose money over cure, value power over care, and subsequently enjoy watching their patients suffer.

Most of this is projection. I'm not going to claim that woo pushers enjoy watching their patients suffer, as I have no evidence for or against that proposition. But they do have a habit of choosing money over cure (alternative remedies don't come cheap!), and there is good reason to think at least some of them value power over care.

There is some overlap between woo pushers and faith healers. John Oliver had a segment recently on televangelists, some of whom discuss cancer in ways so similar to the cancer woo pushers Orac discusses that I need a program to tell which is which. The biggest difference is that the televangelists explicitly ask for money, which is supposed to be a "seed" that repays you in unspecified benefits--presumably in the alleged afterlife, since their methods don't work any better than homeopathy.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

It's not just the young and ignorant who easily led into quackery and woo. A colleague of mine just left our biotech company to move to Portland and study Chinese Medicine. This is a guy with a PhD, who has spent years working on the immune system for cancer and HIV.

As we were walking to his going-away party another co-worker asked why he was leaving. This led to them having a long conversation about how "Western Medicine just addresses symptoms, and waits until you get sick". After a while I couldn't take it anymore and said "And cancer! 'Western' medicine does a pretty good job of dealing with cancer!", and gestured to the huge and world-famous cancer institute we were walking past. I just wanted to scream at both of them for being so blind to the work that we do every damn day on cancer.

Yes, 'Western medicine' hasn't cured IBS yet. Or celiac. But that doesn't give them (or anyone) leave to just ignore all the things that science-based medicine has done.

(The guy also said he was going to study Chinese Medicine because he wanted to be a clinician but didn't want to spend 4 years in medical school, and massage therapist wasn't what he wanted either. Oh, and he was going to be doing clinical research at the same time as the Chinese Medicine.)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

Sadly, I fear the outcome of this whole exercise will be an early and painful death for Cassandra.

I’d say, that maybe it would have been better if her first refusal of chemotherapy was picked up by mainstream media and successful, then it would be impossible to blame the doctors for poisoning her against her will and for qucks to try and make them guilty. But it’s not like that would make anyone see that natural and homeopathic therapy does not work for cancer. Instead they’d blame the poor girl for not following Gerson well enough to some such BS.

There is no shortage of cases where a cancer patient died a horrible death for following alternative medicine instead of actual medicine. This deters none of the woomeisters, who will claim a variety of things: Failure to follow the protocol properly, as you mentioned, or not believing it hard enough, or too much built of "toxicity" from eating the wrong foods, etc. They will also point to cases of cancer patients dying despite receiving the best standard of care. You know, because any drug that is less than 100% effective is useless, whereas alt med is 100% effective except when its not because reasons.

cloudskimmer #11,

I know that Bollinger sells a book and DVD series he "researched" and there are affiliate marketing ads on his site for supplements and such.

He might actually have a real day job too, if you believe anything on the Coast to Coast AM website.

The bio posted there mentions that he's a CPA:

http://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/bollinger-ty/50097

He's a frequent speaker at those "health freedumb" conventions, which either pays directly or leads to sales of his book and whatever services he offers.

I suspect he also charges for private "cancer consultations" where he steers people to quacks and might get a "finder's fee" or referral for each mark who becomes a customer. But that's pure speculation.

By Woo Fighter (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

"Sadly, this is a very common rationale, fear of long term chemotherapy side effects. It’s not an unreasonable fear. However, when the alternative is death, the possibility of such long term side effects is not as unreasonable as it would be for a disease that was not so immediately life-threatening."
I had a very similar conversation with a patient in the office today. The concern was over the listed side effects of a medication I had previously prescribed. It's worth mentioning that a common mistake made by many patients is the failure to take into account the risks of the potential side effects occurring vs. the likelihood of the medication having its intended effect. I often hear a patient say that s/he did not take a medication after reading the list of side effects on the package insert (ignoring our office discussion entirely), and it takes some doing to explain that the the intended effect of the medication is very common, while the side effects tend to be rare (especially the catastrophic ones). It's an important distinction that is often lost on patients, and our subject in this post (as well as her interviewer), commit the error of assigning each side effect an equal probability of occurring as the intended effect of the drug.

By Dr. Chim Richalds (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

I had a very similar conversation with a patient in the office today. The concern was over the listed side effects of a medication I had previously prescribed. It’s worth mentioning that a common mistake made by many patients is the failure to take into account the risks of the potential side effects occurring vs. the likelihood of the medication having its intended effect.

I will note that in one case, having gone over the insert and brought a contraindication to the specialist's attention, she noted it as a "good catch" and changed the script.

In another, I asked my cardiologist about contraindications for (racemic) citalopram versus escitalopram, and he (1) recognized what I was asking and (2) was able to easily explain why that wasn't me.

It can go both ways.

Dr. Chim Richalds,

I would probably cry tears of joy if a physician ever had a conversation with me about side effects. I get the distinct impression that they are afraid to bring up the discussion for fear of planting "nocebos" in my head. Meanwhile, the pharmacy information sheets (not even the package inserts) are as frightening as the warnings on TV ads with the added ability to take your time reading them. Add in the horror stories on the internet and I think it is time well spent in discussing the benefits vs risks with patients. I'm just sorry your patient didn't happen to listen to you.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Not a Troll #33
That's disappointing to hear, and bit on the dangerous side (for both patient and doctor). I can't really image having a conversation about a treatment I am suggesting without the concomitant discussion about risks, benefits, and alternatives. That said, I do think it's a matter of habit. For better or for worse, I was trained in a much more risk-aware setting than some of my more senior colleagues, and that means that I can't say anything about the positives of a treatment without mentioning the negatives...unless of course I'm discussing the many homeopathic or energy-based remedies that I often utilize. In that case, I simply unleash my chakras and allow the patient to bask in my chi (NB: this latter therapy is not covered by most insurance carriers).

By Dr. Chim Richalds (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

It's very easy to point a finger at homeschooling, but let's face the fact that the homeschooled kids who are approx 1% of the children going to school can't bear the responsibility for the proliferation of woo in the USA. The overwhelming majority (over 95%, I'm sure) of people who are into various kinds of alternative health, conspiracy theories, anti-evolutionists and other such dubious practices are overwhelmingly products of the public school system.

Also, sending her to school would not have changed a thing, not at this age.

In another, I asked my cardiologist about contraindications for (racemic) citalopram versus escitalopram, and he (1) recognized what I was asking and (2) was able to easily explain why that wasn’t me.

Yeah, I remember having that discussion with a psychiatrist a couple years ago, when I switched from citalopram to escialopram; one of the reasons for the switch was that the maximum dose for citalopram had recently been changed due to the possible cardiac effects, and I needed to, um, up my dosage.

He actually gave me a whole run down of the difference in the molecules, what difference it made in terms of the medication, etc., without talking down to me at all, which I really appreciated. I have found that the female MDs I have seen have been more frank about asking about sexual side effects than the men, but that makes sense enough, I suppose.* In general, though, any doc I've seen has always mentioned both the most common and the most serious side effects to look out for, and beyond that just assumed I'd read the insert or check the internet myself, I guess. It would seem pretty irresponsible of a physician not to mention side effects that could be life-threatening.

*I mean, being suicidally depressed is kind of a libido killer in and of itself, which definitely factors into a risk/benefit analysis.

The overwhelming majority (over 95%, I’m sure) of people who are into various kinds of alternative health, conspiracy theories, anti-evolutionists and other such dubious practices are overwhelmingly products of the public school system.

Heck, I've met people who went to public school, college, and are now in Ph.D. programs who believe some really incredibly stupid sh*t. I also have a friend who was homeschooled by her rabidly evangelical parents, managed to escape and go to UW, and is now getting a Ph.D. in history and generally has her head on straight when it comes to all kinds of subjects, despite her ridiculous early "education" - creationist textbooks, the whole nine yards. (She does miss a lot of pop culture references, though.)

She thinks that there really is another effective way to eradicate her cancer “naturally” or with homeopathy. ... If there were, doctors would be falling all over themselves to use them, because we don’t like having to give patients drugs that cause severe toxicity and then dealing with that toxicity and watching our patients suffer.

There's a second reason doctors would be falling all over themselves to use such a remedy:

Doctors get cancer, too.

By TGuerrant (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

JP, hopefully even amongst the homeschooled, a not insignifiant proportion of adolescents will rebel against their parents as is expected when they form an identity separate from their elders and more appropriate to their own age cohort and era.

So think of it!
TMs may have a child who says, "F@ck the GFCF diet, bring on the pizza!" And " Those health fanatic n-zis are SO OVER!" And vegan parents will hear the taboo words, "All beef, all the time!"

And most woo FORBIDS tobacco, caffeine, alcohol and recreational ( and pharmaceutical) drugs!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

@Woo Fighter #30

Thanks for posting the link. Just looking at Farley, "ND" and Bollinger's "A Guide to Understanding Herbal Medicines and Surviving the Coming Pharmaceutical Monopoly", I emptied an entire can of WooBeGone and my office still reeks. I may have to resort to something stronger. When nearly every line in their ad contains a falsehood, fabrication, exaggeration, weasel-wording, or outright lie, I can only conclude that they are either ignorant or hucksters of the worst kind.

Some of their claims, if believed and acted upon, could result in severe toxicity or death, as in the example of their statement that, whereas the "entire" bark of the yew tree contains substances that "actually mitigate harmful effects", Taxol, the "EXTREMELY toxic" drug derived from the tree to 'treat' cancer, "kills rather heals". Despite their statement that yew had been used for 1000s of years by Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans, or their claim that "It was always used with other herbs that mitigated the possible harmful side effects and with herbs that would increase its positive actions against malignancies and limit its harm", there is no evidence to demonstrate that it was ever safe, no matter what other herbs it may have been combined with, regardless of its use to treat cancer by the Tsimshian Indians of the Pacific Northwest.

And where do they come up with "over 85% of drugs are based on herbal plants"? Even if you calculated the number of plant-derived chemicals from which drugs are made, the proportion would barely reach much beyond 50%. What they are probably referring to are traditional ethnomedicines which, ironically, they are equating as "drugs".

More perplexing, how would Native Americans have used cannabis as a medicinal plant for "at least 3,000 years" when, as far as anyone can tell, it was only introduced to the West by the Spaniards?

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 18 Aug 2015 #permalink

I have found that the female MDs I have seen have been more frank about asking about sexual side effects than the men, but that makes sense enough, I suppose.

Small sample size, but I've noticed the same thing. She didn't seem to be willing to take "it doesn't really matter" for an answer.

@Denice #39 - small sample size, but I have seen that happening amongst some homeschooling acquaintances. However it was hippy dippy parents and, at age 18, their child joined the national guard (because they couldn't get into the police academy) and married the fundie preacher's daughter.

Heck, I’ve met people who went to public school, college, and are now in Ph.D. programs who believe some really incredibly stupid sh*t.

There are even people who have gone to highly regarded private prep schools and Ivy League universities and believe a fair bit of nonsense. Most notoriously George W. Bush (a graduate of Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business School), but there are others. I don't know Bobby Jindal's high school background, but he is a flaming creationist despite earning a degree in biology from Brown.

For that matter, some of the worst woo pushers are people with actual M.D. degrees obtained in the days before the rise of quackademia.

Good on your friend for escaping the fundamentalist homeschooling world. One of the most insidious things about that world is that it is difficult to escape, especially if you are female--those girls are expected to marry young, often to a man their father has chosen for them, and they often aren't even allowed to know that there is a bigger world out there that they can escape to. If the family is large enough, the older girls will often be dragooned into providing child care for their younger siblings.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Lighthorse

And where do they come up with “over 85% of drugs are based on herbal plants”?

An article I read (and referred to in a long gone thread; haven't it at hand now) was arriving at 60% based on natural products; It was including animal products like insulin and not-really-herbal products like penicillin.
85% herbals may indeed be a tad excessive.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 19 Aug 2015 #permalink

Taxol cured my mom's breast cancer. Yeah, it's a horrible drug, but I didn't have to bury my mother a couple years ago, so...

I hate cancer, but I hate cancer quackery more.

By Interrobang (not verified) on 19 Aug 2015 #permalink

@Brook #42 -- yes, my hippy-dippy sister and her husband sent their daughter to Catholic school (the only private school option in a county with crappy public school choices) and then were quite happy when she won a scholarship to a Catholic women's college. I think they believed their extremely left of center influence would be strong enough to withstand all that religious indoctrination.

Nope.

As others already commented, whatever the outcome, this girl will most likely defend her quackery of choice until her last breath, and blame real medicine for anything bad.
Here in the Netherlands there's a woman blogger with breast cancer who, after initial breast-saving surgery some 7 years ago, refused any regular follow-up treatment, and opted for 'natural remedies' -- IOW: quackery. In the course of the past 5 years (after recurrence of her cancer), she tried almost every conceivable type of quackery, from homeopathy to MMS to several sorts of food woo, and now she's going for black salve. Yet even when a particular treatment inevitably fails to deliver even the slightest improvement, she not only keeps defending it, she even recommends it to other cancer patients. In particular her rationalizations of her quackery du jour make me cringe -- it's a true smörgåsbord of all idiocy disseminated by quacks: cancer is a fungus, and can be treated as such; cancer is an 'acid-based cellular process' so one should consume only 'alkaline' products, including, according to her, lots of fruit juice (which, if anything, are usually rather acidic); cancer cells are actually a type of placenta cells ... And of course MMS should help because chlorine dioxide is supposed to be 'very alkaline' (it's not -- it's neither alkaline nor acidic), and now black salve is touted as a remedy because "blacks salve specifically targets only cancer cells, whereas chemotherapy does not" ... aaargh! No no no! Black salve destroys tissue. Any tissue whatsoever. Using it will guarantee necrosis of any treated area, cancerous or not, and very, very nasty scarring and not seldom horrible disfigurement. Meanwhile, the cancer will simply keep growing inside the body. As appears to be happening in this case as well.

Now I don't know if I should feel sorry for this woman, deluding herself time and again in her ever more desperate search for a cure, or that I should feel angry because she is telling other people that quackery is OK as a cancer treatment, even after having gone through failure after failure herself. I guess it's a bit of both.

But as always with these believers in quackery, these people know best, because they base their decisions on what 'feels right' to them, not on what real doctors tell them. Of course, they don't realize that those ideas that 'feel right' didn't just pop into their heads either -- they were planted there by quacks and charlatans, promising effective treatment without serious side effects or risks.
And this poor girl Cassandra will probably fare no better, I'm afraid.

Pickwick@12:

That is an ugly way of thinking.

It's an ugly world, mate. And if you aren't made queasy as hell at the state forcibly restraining a young woman in order to catheterise her against her will then I suggest a quick check in the mirror too.

Joe Stalin may have been an evil bastard, but he nailed it when he said "One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic." We easily get hung up on the individual emotive case as a convenient evasion of the larger problem. Sorry, but you cannot legislate common sense or live other people's lives for them, and hiding behind the letter of the law when its intent is clear is the coward's dodge.

You want to make a concrete difference? Start by differentiating between those who lie only to themselves and those who lie to others. You allow individuals to make their own choices, life-destroying ones and all, because that's the price of personal freedom; you start taking it away from one, you take it away from all. The alties are already pathological control freaks; we don't need to be adding ourselves as well. Conversely, you aggressively legislate and prosecute the scumbags and parasites who prey on others and aren't afraid to put them in early graves for their own egotistical and financial gain.

Sure, not intervening on individual cases like this means the scumbags are going to defraud and kill people, but they're going to do that anyway. What matters is taking the bastards permanently out of circulation in the long term, and you'll do that best in the legislature and courtrooms by holding up their body count for all to see, and making everyone acknowledge their complicity in the outrage for having conveniently turned a blind eye before.

RichardR@47:

Yet even when a particular treatment inevitably fails to deliver even the slightest improvement, she not only keeps defending it, she even recommends it to other cancer patients.

Yep, best way to reinforce a lie you tell yourself is to get others believing in it too. SOP for all irrational belief systems: religion alt-med, conspiracy theories, etc.

And this is the point at which the individual's behavior should be shut down quickly and mercilessly by the state, via police cautions and criminal prosecution, because the moment they cross that line they're putting others' lives in danger.

@Helianthus #44

That would be one of reviews by Cragg and Newman.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 19 Aug 2015 #permalink

Yep, best way to reinforce a lie you tell yourself is to get others believing in it too. SOP for all irrational belief systems: religion alt-med, conspiracy theories, etc.

And this is the point at which the individual’s behavior should be shut down quickly and mercilessly by the state....

May I ask which country you live in?

@JP #37

Heck, I’ve met people who went to public school, college, and are now in Ph.D. programs who believe some really incredibly stupid sh*t.

My wife attended one of the most prestigious private high schools in Seoul, graduated from Seoul National University, and earned a PhD from a top flight American school, yet she is in a few respects a veritable font of stupid sh*t. Some of it didn't come out until well after the wedding, but for the most part it was the O-ring test and a fondness for traditional Korean Miracle Foods as prescribed by her uncle the traditional Chinese medicine doctor. I took it in good humor, and all was generally well, until that one time that I really was deathly ill - which she took as an opportunity to drag me around to a series of naturopaths. In addition, thank God, to the real doctors that I was consulting so everything was salvaged except my pride.

By Robert L (신문 남… (not verified) on 19 Aug 2015 #permalink

As others have pointed out there is a huge problem with woo. I have had breast cancer on both sides and follicular non-hodgkin's lymphoma. I got kicked off the breast cancer yahoo group email list because I advocated for science based treatments. I asked people if you believe that a lumpectomy + radiation = mastectomy with respect to outcome; if you believe that a sentinel node biopsy = taking all the nodes out with respect to diagnosing if BC has spread, then I don't understand why you don't believe the clinical trials that say X treatment works more often then Y treatment and Z treatment doesn't work at all. Using properly designed studies, just like gravity, science works all the time, not just when you want it to.

Of course people are influenced by things that have nothing to do with helping their cancer. Hair loss is one of them. I was on the job market and did not want to lose my hair. I was extremely lucky that this was right after rituxan + bendamustine was deemed even more effective than R-CHOP (I had major B symptoms and so needed treatment), but I must admit that did enter into my decision choices. Not rational, but at least I was picking between a gold standard and one that the clinical trials were finding was even better. Now it ended up nearly killing my bone marrow which was a real bummer, had to start a gofundme (www.gofundme.com/78d3nc) to pay for the mess I then had (and still have as I am not fully employed again yet due to age discrimination and the gap in my vitae - I am an academic). Got fired over being too expensive for their insurance - they were self insured (EEOC complaint still pending 2+ years later), struggling to find a full time job, etc. But is it not the fault of science that I had such a big mess. A small % of people have liver damage and bone marrow damage and unfortunately I was one of them. Of course people don't understand that statistics applies to groups, not individuals. They think and 'n' of 1 (ie them, a friend, relative, etc.) either proves or disproves the statistically supported findings.

We do not teach enough practical science in school. We do not teach people how to evaluate quack/woo claims prior to when they need to do this. A cancer dx is an emotional earthquake, often combined with time urgency and that is not the best time to be learning the basics about science. People want reassurances everything will come out fine - something woo quacks will do and reputable MD"s will not, because they can't say so for sure.

I argued on that list that the quacks also take huge amounts of your money, only your insurance doesn't reimburse so it is all out of your pocket. How is that any different than oncologists charging for treatments - only you pay less due to insurance? They usually have no answer for this other than pure motives. Umm right money grubbing motives.

With respect to the big bad pharma argument. I tell them that if there was a "natural" cure for cancer pharma would isolate the active ingredients, patent it and make an even bigger killing so the incentive actually is to hunt for those natural cures, not bury them.

I mention that if these things are so successful then why are they resistant to including their secret natural woo in clinical trials where the world would see it was more effective...

Logic does not sway that crowd. All it does it make them mad at you. They will believe what they want to believe even as they are dying. Some of the email lists on yahoo and other boards reinforce snake oil cures. Anyone can set up those lists and run them. When they get big enough they take on a life of their own and keep going. The biggest breast cancer list on yahoo is run by a women who never went beyond high school and had DCIS 25+ years ago (this is the list that banned me). The non-hodgkin's lymphoma list is run by a guy who has follicular non-hodgkin's lymphoma and if it isn't science based he will not allow it to stand unchallenged. Snake oil discussions are not welcome on that list and his webpage (nhlcymberfamily,org) is one of the better collections of information in one place that is science based.

Not sure what the answer is but I am reasonably sure that logical arguments will not sway bunches of people in that crowd. I see it in "natural cures" for ADHD on parenting lists... if it is natural it is better. I remind people that there are many natural things that will kill you (and then list some). Even that logic doesn't cut any ice with most of those people. They have already drunk the kool-aid and if you have not you are enemy number 1, or if religion is tossed into the mix, an agent of the devil besides.

Yeah, the side effects are scary and, trust me, watching your kid throw up off and on for 3 1/2 years while doing 3/12 years of daily chemo for leukemia is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. But sometimes, a parent has to put their big person pants on, evaluate the risks (death without effective treatment), and then make their child understand that this is something that they have to get through, that it will help them, and that it's the ONLY proven, avenue to a successful outcome.

From the video:

Cassandra - "It started with severe stomach pain; cramps, severe abdominal pain. So I had to go the emergency room because it was so bad."

Wait, why go the emergency room at all if you prefer homeopathic treatments? If I'm the interviewer, I would want to know why she didn't run to the nearest homeopath for consultation or scramble to Walgreens to buy a bunch of supplements. Why go to the doctor if you don't believe a word they say about your health? You can't have it both ways.

I hate, hate, hate alternative medicine and the con artists that perpetuate it.

By Joshua Giefer (not verified) on 21 Aug 2015 #permalink

The illogic of their views about putting the medical situation in God's hands, etc. or some variation and then rushing to the hospital during an emergency is so transparent that I have to wonder whether the fundamental problem is not mere ignorance.

Looking at you, Duggars, whose fertility is left in the hands of God, etc., yet who ran up a bill in six figures to intervene when their premature infant got into serious trouble and eventually died. Can't have it both ways. If this teenager mistrusted the doctors, why did she not run first to the woo purveyors? They never seem to address this hypocrisy. Ultimately the mother is responsible for this situation, and I'm baffled why she has escaped criminal charges.

Has anyone heard of the Budwig cure it is not quackery - are not nutritious meals better than chemo - my sister died from too much chemo and my husband died also the same way. The chemo is another way for the pharmaceutical companies to get rich and the doctors retain a commission of the cost of chemo, usually around $3000.
The bitter almond plant was banned in 1995 in the USA because it cures cancer.

The quackery is in the pharmaceutical companies getting rick off desperate sick patients and convincing our government to force treatment making this country no longer land of the free and knowing that 97% of chem patients survive no longer than five years.

By margaret chevalier (not verified) on 21 Aug 2015 #permalink

I'm afraid the Budwig "cure" is indeed quackery. As is laetrile (derived from almond seeds).

The bitter almond plant was banned in 1995 in the USA

Prunus dulcis var. amara> is banned? Oh yes? This will come as news to the essential oil industry. I eagerly anticipate details of the legislation that criminalised the tree.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 22 Aug 2015 #permalink

Narad@52:

UK, where we're not blessed with a constitutional First Amendment, alas, which is one of the reasons we get crap like this. Though we do at least have the UK Cancer Act of 1939, which is nice for shutting down pathological scumbags and dangerous loons who prey on innocent individuals just when they're at their weakest and most frightened and desperate.

However, even the FA isn't a blank check to crooks and liars: falsely shouting "Fire" in a theater will get you censured for public endangerment, hurling racist abuse at a specific individual will get you busted for harrassment, big pharma can't print wildly unsubstantiated health claims on its product packaging without being hauled over the coals, and so on.

The FA only means the government can't stop liars from lying, not that liars can't be held accountable for the damage done by those lies. All it needs is the political and popular insight and willpower to get appropriate legislation in place and enforced.

Unfortunately, I suspect the real problem is the giant elephant in the room: 'Muricans really, really love their Religions - to the point they inextricably entangle their already egos in them to the great enlargement and real/imaginary empowerment of both. That makes it inordinately difficult to educate and exercise minds in the ways of critical thinking, because any critical analysis of a strongly-held belief is instantly interpreted as an attack on the person, triggering a nuclear response precisely intended to shut down all further analysis or discussion for good.

OTOH, the moment you grant a free pass to one irrational belief system just because it's too politically tricky to tackle right now, you're effectively handing the rest of them the right to claim the same "untouchable" status as well. Which makes for as much appallingly bad Theology as appallingly bad Science, natch; but hey, it's not my country so I can't help you there. It's just that whenever you lot go spectacularly off the rails, the rest of us receive shrapnel as well. At the very least, y'know, y'all could tell us when to duck. :p

margaret chevalier@58:

The chemo is another way for the pharmaceutical companies to get rich and the doctors retain a commission of the cost of chemo, usually around $3000.

Here in the UK, most medical practitioners work for the state-funded National Health Service, making $3000 kickbacks an unlikely motivator, yet they prescribe (and personally use) chemo too. To give a single example, when my aunt (a former nurse) was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple decades back, she didn't hesitate to go with the standard "slash" (surgery) and "poison" (adjunct chemo) approach to her treatment, and her sister (another ex-nurse) and husband (a now retired doctor) didn't hesitate to support her through it. And she's been "cured" (in full remission) ever since.

So perhaps you'd also like to tell me how my aunt, my uncle, and my mother are all greedy and corrupt and/or gullible and stupid too? Or perhaps you might even entertain the possibility that you might be the one who's wrong here (assuming your ego isn't so large as to preclude this, of course) - and thus be able to educate yourself a bit more thoroughly so you can better assess the pros and cons of globally tested and proven standard medical treatments against whatever falls off the snake-oil cart next time.

The chemo is another way for the pharmaceutical companies to get rich and the doctors retain a commission of the cost of chemo, usually around $3000.

Here in the UK, most medical practitioners work for the state-funded National Health Service, making $3000 kickbacks an unlikely motivator....

Margaret's account is both garbled and out of date. It would help if an actual oncologist (*koff*) would chime in, but my understanding is that in the U.S., private-practice oncologists have been allowed to charge a markup – which is different from a "commission" – on chemotherapeutic drugs administered in the office.

The rationale for "buy and bill" depends on who you're talking to, but the fact of the matter is that the times have changed.

97% of chem patients survive no longer than five years

The 097% lie is popular across the scammosphere (note the Anaximander analysis from 6 years ago) but I can't help wondering how low-information readers get from there over to Respectful Insolence. It is as if Orac is flypaper for stupid.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 22 Aug 2015 #permalink

margaret chevalier,

my sister died from too much chemo and my husband died also the same way.

Serious question, should you not be a hit-and-run poster: how do you know they didn't die from the effects of the cancer?

97% of chem patients survive no longer than five years

Not true. The latest figures show 69% of all cancer patients survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. No wonder you are afraid of chemotherapy if you believe this nonsense.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 22 Aug 2015 #permalink

@herr doktor bimler: Der Googles would be my guess, and not because they're looking to learn either.

What gets me is that alties don't even do a double-take when presented with such a blatantly ridiculous figure as 2-3%. They just instantly, unquestioningly, accept it as The Truth because it came from one of their Own. In contrast, anyone with even the most basic grasp of medicine (or, for that matter, on reality itself) would immediately want to double-check the crap out of the calculations and research that produced such as suspiciously low number. And she'd do so for one simple reason: because the only thing that's even more embarrassing than totally failing to spot a really simple math error is totally failing to exercise due dilligence before jumping on the outrage wagon on basis of wildly incorrect information.

It's the sort of unforgivably basic brainfart that would (quite rightly) turn even the greenest of scientists bright-red in personal and professional humiliation for years to come. Yet the same failure of judgement is, apparently, held up as a great mark of pride in bizarro altie land - where not only is it SOP not to verify each others' workings but anathema even to critique or correct one's own.

@Krebiozen: I think your 69% survival figure is for all cancer patients rather than just those that retrieved chemo in particular. Even so, you'd still think it enough to raise a warning flag on the "97% of chemo patients do not survive" claim, and make them want to re-check their figures before launching their attack.

Alas, it appears infinitely easier for alties to believe in an unimaginably vast worldwide conspiracy between millions of scientists, doctors, governments, and even cancer patients themselves, than even contemplate the possibility that they themselves might be wrong. Cowards, all.

The bitter almond plant was banned in 1995

I can find no reliable source for this statement. I do see that raw domestic almonds must be pasteurized, though you can buy imported raw unpasteurized bitter almonds. I also see recommendations to limit the consumption of raw, unheated bitter almonds due to toxicity.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 24 Aug 2015 #permalink

The bitter almond plant was banned in 1995
I can find no reliable source for this statement

Hush! I am enjoying my mental images of Botanical Enforcement Police in black helicopters, swooping on almond orchards to inspect every tree and ensure that none of them are of the banned cultivar.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Aug 2015 #permalink

M O'B: "I can find no reliable source for this statement. I do see that raw domestic almonds must be pasteurized, though you can buy imported raw unpasteurized bitter almonds"

Bitter almonds are apricot seeds. I know the plants have not been banned because I see one growing right outside on the other side of a window. And it is providing nice shade against the summer sun, and we ate the apricots over a month ago.

Bitter almonds are apricot seeds.
There is a separate species, Prunus dulcis, with no flesh to speak of so only the kernel is edible. Bitter almonds are the heritage cultivar Prunus dulcis var. amara, which doesn't have the mutation that suppresses the amygdalin production.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 24 Aug 2015 #permalink

Don't take away my marzipan!

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 24 Aug 2015 #permalink

Actually, the apricot surrounding edible almonds are often small and don't taste great. When they got cultivars of apricots that did not produce seeds filled with cyanide, they bred to create bigger seeds and did not care for the fruit:
http://www.raintreenursery.com/Nut_Trees/Almonds/

There are a few that produce actual edible nuts, and decent fruit:
http://www.raintreenursery.com/Chinese_Montgamet_Sweet_Pit_Apricot_Mar2…

hdb: "There is a separate species, Prunus dulcis, with no flesh to speak of so only the kernel is edible"

Ooops, I am wrong, the almond is actually a peach! It actually is kind of in the description of the nursery almond page and wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almond

I guess I was confused in that there do exist a very few "sweet pit apricots." Of course there are lots of apricot/plum/peach crossbreeding, it get confusing.

And of course, most people pushing laetrile do it with apricot pits. It does not take much to find case studies like this:
Neth J Med. 2013 Nov;71(9):496-8.
Cyanide intoxication by apricot kernel ingestion as complimentary cancer therapy.

Very sad, especially given that nowadays, even Stage III-IV Hodgkin's has such a great 5 year survival rate. I would have thought by now the Woo factor for treating Hodgkin's would have been much less than long ago...

When I got diagnosed with Hodgkin's (Nodular Sclerosing, II-a), I could not WAIT to get treatment started, and pushed my oncologists on to get the ball rolling. I did what was standard protocol back then for my involvement (staging lap w/splenectomy, bone marrow biopsy, focused mediastinal and periaortic radiotherapy), and did it willingly and without a single complaint. 6 months post-RT, I relapsed, and did the ancient MOPP protocol, again, without any hesitation and knowing that SBM was what was best, at the time, to treat the cancer.
Result? 29 years of being lymphoma free. I just don't understand why it seems that there's so many more people being suckered into believing that SBM cancer treatments are useless.

Very very sad that a young lady, just beginning life, is willingly throwing it all away.

I am no doctor or conspiracy theorist but you may want to check into these two products which offer a proven cancer treatment, GcMAF and DCA

By Douglas B (not verified) on 02 Sep 2015 #permalink

Douglas B,

If you'd do a quick search for GcMAF or DCA in the Search this Blog box at the top of the page, you'd see that these have been discussed. DCA has been discussed repeatedly over the last 8 years. Quick summary: the evidence is not compelling that either can cure cancer.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 02 Sep 2015 #permalink

you may want to check into these two products which offer a proven cancer treatment, GcMAF

Is there any particular purveyor you recommend?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 02 Sep 2015 #permalink

What exactly are the % of survival of people who had cemo after say 5 years?? What percentage of folks receiving alternative treatments? Sounds interesting to me.

By jim borders (not verified) on 26 Oct 2015 #permalink

What exactly are the % of survival of people who had cemo after say 5 years?? What percentage of folks receiving alternative treatments? Sounds interesting to me.

And well it should, because it's an interesting question. There are multiple sources for survival rates with current conventional cancer therapy, including the use of chemotherapy. The people who develop and promote alternative treatments have, for the most part, never done studies equivalent to those done for chemotherapy drugs, so we don't have the data to compare.

That's a slight oversimplification, since some people have done studies but not published, and some have done studies that have shown the alternative treatment to be no better than - or possibly worse than - no treatment at all.

I'd hope that you'd agree that in the absence of data to show that the alternative treatments are beneficial that its only prudent to avoid such treatments.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 27 Oct 2015 #permalink

jim borders,

What exactly are the % of survival of people who had cemo after say 5 years??

Conventional survival rates can be found here.

What percentage of folks receiving alternative treatments? Sounds interesting to me.

You can find some discussion if altmed cancer treatments and their success rates here.
The bottom line is that no alternative cancer treatment has ever, to my knowledge, been found to work as well as current conventional treatment. Altmed for cancer really means leaving the cancer untreated, which as we know has been a horrific death sentence for most of human history.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 27 Oct 2015 #permalink

I hate that they made her take the chemo when she had a perfectly justified opinion. It's her body and she has the right to decide what she wants to do with it. I'm glad she's getting better, I just wish that they had listened to her.

By Kay marie (not verified) on 28 Oct 2015 #permalink

Hi, nice to meet you, just wanted to chime in as I have a feeling we aren't going to agree on much and wanted to be sure people knew there might be two of us. ^_^

In case it gets confusing!

I'm trying to find common ground. It's hard, because I disagree with a very basic premise/worldview of yours: that "The worst possible outcome is that the child dies". My view of this whole case has been based in a belief that it was perfectly acceptable for Cassandra to die and DCF intervention could not be justified because it was trying to accomplish an irrelevancy: saving lives isn't important, so it doesn't justify anything.

So in my mind, the ideal outcome would have been the doctors told her she'd die if she didn't get chemo, she'd have said "Ok, I understand. I don't want chemo", and then she wouldn't have gotten chemo and she'd have died. No downsides to it, because it avoids all the negatives of the authorities getting involved and forced treatment and the only supposed positive aspect those have is preventing a death - but death isn't bad, so preventing it isn't really a positive.

Ty is my kind of "quack" because he and all of his many doctor friends, know, appreciate and teach the importance of proper nutrition. I also like him because he's not calloused--he's just got a tough hide :-)

Ty Bollinger is a true hero.., who courageously dares to expose the real 'quackery' and scam committed by those Big-Pharma controlled conventional mainstream-medicine..., with regard to especially cancer issues.
And.., silly disinformation & so-called 'science' blogsite such the one here.., are mere lackeys & shills of those greedy Big-Pharma corporate monsters.
Be advised that most of the conventional medical Oncologists are the real quack-masters & scam-artistes when it come to their treatment of cancer via the 'Cut, Poison or Burn' therapy for cancer sufferers.
Most of those heartless cancer quack & scam-artiste Oncologists are not really sincere medical doctors who truly care for the health, wellbeing and truly want to heal & ease the cancer patients' suffering & misery .., but instead they would rather make huge income & profits from the misery of others.., by prescribing their control & monopoly of the 'Cut, Poison & Burn' treatment. How sickening..!!
---------
And besides.., this article/forum (posted by Orac) had missed the point of that Cassandra girl issue.
How can the law allow the so-called medical authority to take full charge & control of her medical treatment protocol while denying her to decide for herself of how she wish to opt or be treated for her cancer condition.., just because she is a minor (under 18).., while at the same time to deny her parent/guardian to have say for her cancer treatment..?
However ironically though.., the law allows her to decide for herself to undergo for an abortion (despite her being a minor).., if she becomes pregnant teen and does not want the child.
What kind of sick and inconsistent law is that..., huh..?
-------
P.S.> If all hospitals & clinics would have or allow for the following simple & most basic (and not costly) cancer treatment equipment & therapy, such as (say):-
1) Ozone therapy,
2) Hyperthermia therapy,
3) High-dose Vitamin-C (intra-veinous) treatment..,
Thus.., be advised that CURING Cancer is a rather simple matter.
But then again.., Cancer is truly 'Big Business' and easy-money that has to be fully monopolised.., by those Big-Pharma corporation and their controlled-cohorts medical oncologists.
Thus.., the above article contributor (Orac) has to answer the question.., whether the 'Cut, Poison & Burn' method of treating cancer.., is real science and true medicine..., and nothing else..!!

By surecorrect (not verified) on 11 Nov 2015 #permalink

@surecorrect - Bingo! I win on your post!

Do you have any evidence that anything you prescribe for cancer can, in fact, cure cancer?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2015 #permalink

all hospitals & clinics would have or allow for the following simple & most basic (and not costly) cancer treatment equipment & therapy, such as (say):-
1) Ozone therapy,
2) Hyperthermia therapy,
3) High-dose Vitamin-C (intra-veinous) treatment..

surecorrect, your evidence that ozone therapy, hyperthermia therapy and intravenous high dose vitamin C are more effective at curing cancer than current standard of care surgical intervention, chemotherapy and radiation therapy would be...what, exactly?

I mean, you do actually have some, right?

“Contempt, prior to COMPLETE investigation, enslaves men to ignorance.”

“Ignorance, especially willful ignorance, is everywhere. The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about and refuse to investigate.”

“Our mind is of three categories: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. Not knowing is unfortunate; not knowing that we don’t know is tragic.”

"A fool and his money soon are parted."
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
"Never give a sucker an even break."

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 12 Nov 2015 #permalink

Thus.., be advised that CURING Cancer is a rather simple matter.

If only that were true.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 12 Nov 2015 #permalink

What exactly are the % of survival of people who had cemo after say 5 years??

The 5-year survival rate for people who have had chemo for the same kind of cancer as Cassandra Callender is 90%.

That would be: 90%.

Those are good odds. And for many people, it's a complete cure. Details here..

What percentage of folks receiving alternative treatments?

Since (for some reason) the people who promote and profit from alternative treatments generally prefer to keep that info to themselves, it's impossible to say.

I couldn't find any for Hodgkin's, which is what Callender has.
But I did find this here paper about a woman with Hodgkin's who refused conventional treatment and went an alternate route until six years after diagnosis, at which point she was hospitalized because she was dangerously ill, due to her cancer having been completely unaffected by the alternative treatment.

Happy ending, though. Despite the six years of disease progression, she got chemo and survived.

Even at Stage IV, the 5-year survival rate for Hodgkin's is 65%. With chemo.

Ineffectively treated, it's terminal.

One of Gonzalez's malpractice cases was a woman who died of Hodgkin's while on the Gonzalez protocol, IIRC

Most of those heartless cancer quack & scam-artiste Oncologists are not really sincere medical doctors who truly care for the health, wellbeing and truly want to heal & ease the cancer patients’ suffering & misery .., but instead they would rather make huge income & profits from the misery of others.., by prescribing their control & monopoly of the ‘Cut, Poison & Burn’ treatment. How sickening..!!

It has a success rate of NINETY PERCENT for the kind of cancer Callender has.

If there's any evidence that forgoing it completely doesn't mean death for 99% of the people who do, I can't find it!

Could you provide some?

For ozone, high-dose vitamin C, and hyperthermia therapy, for instance?

Thus.., the above article contributor (Orac) has to answer the question.., whether the ‘Cut, Poison & Burn’ method of treating cancer.., is real science and true medicine…, and nothing else..!!

If you've got something that prevents otherwise certain death at a higher rate, bring it on.

@FREEMAN, #90 --

Agree.

cloudskimmer:
<>
You're kidding. It's full of sponsored links and you get a barage of emails offering different stuff. PLUS he charges $47 minimum for a digital download of the documentary. He gives a 90 day money back guarantee, but it is impossible to contact his company. Customer services phone is never manned, no-one replies to messages, live help is always off, customer service tickets are not even acknowledged. It's insane. I have an open mind on natural health but this is no way to treat customers. I am going to complain to Paypal.