The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On palliative chemotherapy and "false hope"

Almost a year ago I posted an Open Letter to Oncologists in which I detailed our experiences with energy healing and terminal cancer and advocated offering patients who could not be cured with conventional methods the energy healing option. My reasoning was that in our experience bioenergy healing was better at palliation than chemo, offering improved quality of life without any debilitating side effects.

There are many cancer patients who come to the point in their treatment where their doctors tell them that they have run out of curative options and that further chemotherapy and radiation would only serve palliative ends. In other words, when the cancer gets bad enough, treatment is offered to shrink the tumour to make it interfere less with the body's functioning.

But now comes research from the Dana-Farber Cancer institute that shows that patients who receive such treatment are more often than not unclear about its purpose. A research article published in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled "Patients' Expectations About Effects of Chemotherapy for Advanced Cancer" shows that a large percentage of terminal cancer patients surveyed (69% of those with lung cancer and 81% of those with colorectal cancer) were not aware that the treatment they were receiving was meant to be palliative and not at all likely cure them. The rate of misunderstanding was higher among patients who rated their communication with their doctor very favourably.

I find it highly ironic that the same medical establishment that accuses alternative therapists of selling "false hope" and "snake oil" finds itself in the position of inadvertently doing just that. At the same time I can see the difficulty of making clear to patients that the treatments they will be receiving, which will likely make them feel quite awful, have no curative purpose. But perhaps it is time for the medical establishment to take off its blinkers and start looking at other therapies that may serve this patient population better than chemo.

Update November 13: Just ran across an informative article entitled "Palliative Chemo: When Enough is Too Much" in Clinical Oncology. Well worth the read on this topic.