When alternative medicine cancer cures fail, it’s always the patient’s fault. Always.

After a trilogy of posts on the lamentably bad decision on the part of the Tribeca Film Festival to screen a pseudoscience- and misinformation-filled documentary by hero to the antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield, that is basically one long conspiracy theory, I thought it was time for a change. I had briefly toyed with the idea of having some fun with the flying monkeys (a.k.a. antivaccine commenters) who’ve descended upon the Tribeca Film Festival entry for the documentary, but, as of this writing, the total number of comments is over 1,700 and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were over 2,000 by the time this post goes live. On the plus side, the crazies are truly out in force, including John Scudamore, the man responsible for Whale.to, one of the oldest and largest repositories of pseudoscience and quackery on the whole Interent. That, and Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism in the form of that old anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. (Indeed, those of us of the pro-science hope that Mr. Scudamore will continue to post, given how outright loony and anti-Semitic he is.)

Instead, I managed to resist one more dip in the well (at least for now and at least until there is a new development worth writing about) and instead move on to a topic slightly less depressing. OK, it’s not less depressing; it’s just depressing in a different way.

So let’s talk about cancer. Not specifically about cancer per se, but rather about cancer quackery. It’s a frequent topic of this blog, one with which regular readers have become quite familiar. Be it Nicholas Gonzalez’ quackery, the Gerson protocol, Stanislaw Burzynski’s antineoplastons, the Hoxsey treatment, or any of dozens of other treatments that claim to be able to cure cancer, they all share one thing in common: The promise far more than they can ever deliver, given that they are based on pseudoscience and/or prescientific ideas of how cancer develops. Another thing they share in common is the reliance on testimonials rather than science as “evidence” of their effectiveness. Finally, given that these treatments don’t work, they all have to share something else. Specifically, they all have ready-made excuses for when they don’t work and the tumor progresses or the patient dies.

These excuses were on display in perhaps one of the most despicably concise lists of the most common excuses used by quacks when their treatments inevitably fail. Not surprisingly, this list appears on that one of many wretched hives of scum and quackery in the world of antivaccinationism and pseudoscience, Mike Adams’ NaturalNews.com in the form of an article by Paul Fassa entitled Seven reasons why natural cancer remedies sometimes fail. After trotting out the usual cancer quack claim that oncologists hide that cancer patients die from the chemotherapy rather than their disease, Fassa proclaims:

On the other hand, those who seek alternative methods of dealing with cancer have a much greater chance of surviving cancer without any adverse reactions or side effects. As an old saying went: with herbal medicine, the disease can kill you; but with allopathic (mainstream) medicine, the treatment can kill you.

But sometimes the cancer survival rate drops from 80-plus percent with alternative natural means to 50 percent or lower. Here’s why.

First of all, it is a lie, plain and simple, that those who choose alternative methods fo treating cancer instead of science-based medicine are more likely to survive. Certainly, it’s delusional to claim that more than 80% of patients choosing alternative treatments survive. Indeed, alternative medicine is associated, more than anything else, with worse survival or delays in treatment that necessitate more radical treatments to have a reasonable hope of a cure. Indeed, alternative medicine is associated with cancer progression and potentially preventable deaths that are quite often unnecessary.

So what are the excuses reasons excuses that Fassa comes up with for when alternative medicine doesn’t work? I bet you can predict what the first one will be. it’s one we hear time and time again:

(1) Rushing into mainstream treatments first. When diagnosed with any type of cancer, patients are pressured into starting treatments immediately or face imminent death. The types of cancer that are that threatening, such as pancreatic cancer, are beyond repair within mainstream medicine anyway. So why rush?

The prospects of total recovery with natural methods are reduced considerably by mainstream oncology’s harsh “heroic interventions.” You have time to research what’s best for you. If you’re clueless or confused about what’s out there, try the Cancer Tutor.[1]

That’s right. If you decide to undergo conventional therapy first, the woo won’t work. Of course, it won’t work anyway, but it’s very common for cancer quacks to blame failures of their quackery to eliminate cancer or even arrest its growth on the patient’s having used chemotherapy or radiation before. It’s a classic “blame the victim” technique, a particularly pernicious and despicable ploy, because many patients who are desperate enough to try alternative medicine only do so after they’ve exhausted conventional treatment. So basically, Fassa is advocating a strategy in which alternative medicine practitioners give patients who’ve exhausted conventional medicine false hope and then tell them that the reason that hope didn’t pan out was because they chose conventional medicine. Basically, if you try an alternative therapy but don’t try it first, then it’s your fault that you’re dying.

Next up:

(2) Not changing to the “cancer diet.” All processed foods and beverages should be shunned completely. Organic plant foods should be the dietary staples. One should also stop eating meat, for the most part, especially red and processed meats. Refined sugar and refined carbohydrates create the perfect food for cancer cells’ survival.[2]

This is the fallacy of “food as medicine.” Basically, although there is no doubt that certain dietary elements can increase or decrease the risk of cancer, once you already have cancer there’s little evidence that diet has much impact on its progression. The best advice for cancer patients is to eat a balanced diet with adequate calories to supply the energy they need to fight the cancer.

Of course, there’s another aspect to this bit of advice as well. Many cancer patients, particularly those with advanced cancer, can’t adhere to the sorts of special “cancer diets” that quacks recommend. It’s not their fault, and quacks are often notably silent about what these patients should do.

I’m going to combine #3 and #6 because it shows you how self-contradictory these excuses can be:

(3) Going it alone with only one protocol. The Cancer Tutor recommends three protocols (including diet) if one doesn’t go to a clinic that specializes in natural healing, such as the Gerson Clinic, Bio-Medical Clinic, or others in Mexico or Europe. But some manage with only one therapy if they’re on a cancer diet.

(6) Mixing protocols. Cancer patients who use cannabis oils are often guilty of this. They tend to look at cannabis’ incredible healing powers as a silver bullet and ignore changing their diets, usually continuing to consume junk food with lots of sugar. Then they panic and jump into chemo or radiation in addition to using cannabis oil.

So wait a minute. It’s bad to use only one protocol; so you should use different forms of quackery together. But then it’s bad to “mix protocols.” But isn’t combining protocols “mixing protocols”? Eating junk food isn’t exactly a protocol either. So isn’t smoking weed and eating junk food actually “going it alone with one protocol”? I know, I know. It’s only bad to “mix protocols” if one of those protocols happens to be conventional cancer therapy of some kind. Otherwise, mix away!

Here’s another “blame the victim” excuse, very similar to #1:

(4) Not following the protocol exactly. The Budwig Diet prohibits using laetrile, an effective therapy by itself. But it allows the natural source of laetrile, apricot seed kernels. The Budwig Diet guide[3] should be followed.

While in France, Dr. Max Gerson was mystified by the lack of progress with some of his patients. He discovered that an assistant was sneaking pastries to them with lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates that helped cancer cells survive and sabotaged his dietary approach.

Essiac tea was recommended to a friend whose dad had cancer. She said he had tried it and it didn’t work. Of course, he had never changed his diet and he used over-the-counter Essiac tea, which is worthless. Only a few online providers provide the best Rene Caisse-approved herbs for you to brew Essiac yourself. Here’s one.

Of course, this story about Max Gerson might well be apocryphal, but the fact that Fassa tells it tells me a lot. It tells me that even Gerson was blaming the victim when his patients didn’t do well. Of course, notice what is left out of this story. It’s rather obvious. Fassa doesn’t tell us whether Gerson’s patients did well after they were blocked from consuming the evil sugar. Then there’s the story of Essiac tea. Notice that it has to be only a special Essiac tea provided by a select few quacks and you have to change your diet, or it won’t work. Of course, it won’t work anyway, but there’s always an excuse. For instance, as in #5, you didn’t “detox” sufficiently. Or, as in #7, you didn’t take care of the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspect of healing.

After at least 15 years of looking at alternative cancer cure claims, onething I’ve learned is this. Whenever these “cures” fail, it’s never, ever the quack’s fault. It’s always the patient’s.