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Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Entertainment/culture Medicine Quackery Television

Most credulous news report on an “alternative medicine” treatment ever?

Just as a quick followup to my post on Tong Ren, the quackery that combines acupuncture, “energy healing,” and, in essence, the stereotype of voodoo dolls in a veritable potpourri of woo, take a look at this news report done by the FOX News affiliate in Boston:

If you want horrible, credulous, idiotic reporting, the above segment has it all. Indeed, it doesn’t even include the usual obligatory brief sound bite from a skeptic! True, it does mention that the Massachusetts State Board of Medicine’s Committee on Acupuncture had received complaints about Tom Tam for his claiming to be a “master” acupuncturist, but it in essence dismissed them as carping from critics, while holding up a dubious survey being taken by someone at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute as “evidence” for an efficacy due to Tong Ren sufficient to catch the interest of that august medical institution.

Also note the breast cancer testimonial in the segment. Note how the woman giving the testimonial (who has now become a Tong Ren practitioner, by the way) did have a partial mastectomy but refused chemotherapy and radiation. Now read my post about breast cancer testimonials from nearly four years ago. Read Dr. Peter Moran’s example of a typical breast cancer testimonial. It’s a typical testimonial from a breast cancer patient who doesn’t understand that for surgically treatable breast cancer, surgery is the primary “cure.” Radiation reduces the risk that the tumor will come back in the same breast, and chemotherapy reduces the risk that the tumor will come back elsewhere in the body as a metastasis, but surgical removal of the primary tumor is the primary therapy. Even removal of the lymph nodes or a sentinel lymph node biopsy is generally agreed not to be therapeutic, but rather diagnostic, a means of determining tumor stage and from that stage what further therapy is needed.

If you want to know one reason why so many people believe that obvious quackery like Tong Ren “works,” look no further than to awful reporting like the news segment above. But if you really want brain-melting stupid, look at the promo segment for the above report:

Of course, given how much of a booster of science- and evidence-based medicine Hugh Laurie is, I wonder what he’d think if he found out the Tong Ren report aired right after an episode of House.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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