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Links With Your Coffee - Monday

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"a witch hunt against chiropractors"

They are witches.

What a telling admission that advisory is. Take down anything that says your treat anything or anything that may refer to you as a Doctor. How irresponsible these people are if they have been walking around calling themselves Doctors and saying the treat childhood ailments. Throw em in jail.

Norm - your title "no alternative cures found" is not even what the article you link to says (ginger is cited as being potentially effective against chemotherapy nausea; so are cannabinoids, by the way).

The article does not link to the site at NIH for NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), here it is:

http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/

A quick scan of recent research highlights on their website shows several other promising alternative therapies that show strong statistical support for their benefits, including:

  • cocoa stimulating insulin mediated vasodilation (humans)
  • anti-inflammatory properties of green tea polyphenols (rats)
  • echium oil reducing triglyceride levels (mice)
  • grape seed polyphenol extract (GSPE) and tau-associated neurodegenerative disorders (in vitro & mice)

I actually think its fabulous that these alternative therapies are being subjected to randomized control and well-designed lab studies. To denigrate the whole process as quackery and a waste of money is, in my opinion, unwarranted and counter-productive.

MSNBC gave it that title, not Norm.

I don't think Norm or MSNBC intended to label the process as Quackery. The actual techniques are quackery, but the testing is good. Natural remedies are real. We wouldn't have asprin if we didn't test the contents of some bark that people were chewing.

Alternative Medicine is like signing up to be a test subject in an unscientific test. I have no problem with alternative medicine. They should just have to post an honest explanation of what they are selling.

"The Ritual and care you are about to receive will likely make you feel better and the resulting mental state may help in your treatment but there is less then a 1 in a million chance that there will be relevant direct medical benefits from any services provided herein."

MSNBC gave it that title, not Norm.

That's right, thanks for pointing it out. Maye Norm could weigh in, though, on whether he thinks the title he copied is worded appropriately.

I would amend what you wrote to say "some of the techniques are quackery." This, I think (i.e. the unjustified lumping) is precisely the point I was trying to make.

I think "alternative medicine" is like "alternative rock": something that once upon a time was not accepted by the mainstream, but eventually might get pulled into the mainstream. When doctors in general start prescribing cannabis frequently enough for the AMA to endorse it be de-scheduled, then it will no longer be "alternative medicine." The fact that it is now "alternative" just means it is not mainstream - nothing more or less.

Why is it not mainstream? That could (in general) be for a host of factors, political and social/religious among them.

One might also ask why some bona fide dangerous medicines (or chemicals in general, like DDT) ever got to be mainstream before they were banned/restricted.

You mean how pharmaceutical companies might push the medication they can make money on including ghost writing papers and ignoring adverse results on drugs like Vioxx, Celebrex, Bextra, Zyprexa even pushing for unapproved usage like Propulsid (to name a few.)

And, of course ones that also haven't proven to do what they claim like cholestrol-lowering drugs Vytorin and Zetia or anti-depressants that test literally a couple of points above placebos in effectiveness...

Yes, it's easy (and quite convenient, I think) to forget that science is carried out by humans.

There is seemingly no end to the number of products that are "proven safe" or "proven effective" that only later turn out to be neither.

It might be more accurate to say that alternative medicine is like "alternative media." People are justifiably suspicious of the mainstream variety, so they look for alternatives, only a few of which withstand critical examination.

Yes, clearly there are many therapies and medicines that have at their root a natural remedy or practice. It is also true that these are the least profitable and the least marketed of the healthcare options.

That said, I think it is sort of missing the point to say that alt med went out of style and might gain more acceptance. Alt medicine isn't something that should be accepted, it should be tested and these studies are exactly what we should see more of.

"alternative" just means it is not mainstream - nothing more or less.

That simply isn't true. Alternative medicine is also untested "medicine". The problem with Alt medicine is not that they try unproven things, its that they continue to do things proven not to work and promote them as possibly having some effect. They sell ritual and philosophy as treatments.

That should never gain acceptance. The idea that simple treatments (like aspirin/Maryjane/ginger) are sometimes best and general good health and diet should be a focus of medicine as a whole are things that should come back in vogue.

Our health care system is broken because it is a profit system, not because it ignores my "energies".

I think you may be missing my point.

If you have to generalize all things that are called "alternative medicines" they are unified by being outside the mainstream. Some "alternative medicines (cannabis, chiropractics, massage, etc.) have been tested, at least as much as any "mainstream" medicine, but my insurance company will pay for none of the above.

On the other hand, some "mainstream" medicines have not been rigorously tested, with potentially dangerous consequences (see jillbryant2003 post 2 above yours, redseven).

It is certainly true that many "alternative" medicines are untested, but that is not universally true.

Thus, I stand by my original statement: the only singular factor that unifies all "alternative" medicines is that they are outside the mainstream.

I should have said:

"...at least as much as many 'mainstream' medicines..."

I have to say that you are the first person I have heard refer to Marijuana as Alternative medicine. I think the mainstream medicine does know of its effectiveness and just has issues around prescribing illegal things.

chiropractics on the other hand is pretty widely accepted, but has significant evidence that is does not work.

Medical Massage is called physical therapy last I checked and is often covered.

As I said, my insurance company pays for none of the above. I'm not arguing that this should determine whether something is called "alternative," but then again, the definition of "alternative medicine" is certainly not entirely clear.

I guess my overall point is the presence or absence of substantial evidence as to safety & effectiveness is not a good way to distinguish between alternative and conventional medicine, because of the counter-examples (in both areas), a few of which I described above.

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Iran, onegoodmove, Iran!

Iran, onegoodmove, Iran!

Bugjah said:

Norm - your title "no alternative cures found" is not even what the article you link to says (ginger is cited as being potentially effective against chemotherapy nausea; so are cannabinoids, by the way).

That which is "potentially effect against chemotherapy" is not the same thing as a cure. You do understand the difference, don't you?

Edit:

"That which is "potentially effect against chemotherapy nausea".

There's a huge difference between "a cure" and that which alleviates nausea.

Anyway, there is no cure for cancer. That is a myth. Chemotherapy may slow down or temporarily put the brakes on the growth of cancer cells, but it does not "cure" cancer. Furthermore, there are times when surgery alone is responsible for the cancer being in remission.

Cancer is a complex topic that very few people understand.

Thanks for the edit, because yes I do understand the difference.

Chemotherapy may slow down or temporarily put the brakes on the growth of cancer cells, but it does not "cure" cancer.

That's not technically true. Chemo is poison, straight up. Just as ant poison could potentially completely eliminate your home's carpenter ant infestation, chemo can potentially do the same. The only real question is whether your body can withstand the amount of chemo that would be necessary to eliminate all of the tumor. Surgery is not necessarily more (or even as) effective as chemo; it depends on the grade and stage. It is true that metastatic cancer is essentially never cured by chemo (or anything else), although sometimes life is extended long enough that you just die of something else.

That's my happy thought for the day.

Tne New Scientist article goes well with the Dunning/Kruger study you linked to awhile back.

I think a lot of these articles posted point at hucksters in the various factions of healing: the quackometer/chiropractor article, the alternative medicine study, spotting fraudulent claims, and humans preferring cockiness over expertise.

To some degree, let the consumer beware. Heck, even the Ponzi avenger says that while Eisner took his money, he (Mintz) gave Eisner his greed. We are often swayed by an ad, trumped up claims, and our own desparation.

There are chiropractors that have really helped people, and kept them off of surgeon's operating tables. Echinacea has helped me, but there are those who can give you opposite conclusions. How many times have we seen what diet we should consume, only to have it changed a few years later (anyone remember in Sleeper that "now" fats were all considered good for you)? Drinking moderately is good for you; oh wait - moderate drinkers may already be healthy. Healthy skepticism is a good thing - as in, don't believe or discount everything you read.

Thanks for the "Humans Prefer Cockiness" link. The conversation continues here: http://sensibleerection.com/entry.php/76381

Wow - I'm sending around the Humans Prefer Cockiness link to some of my former colleagues. We would see it in the workplace (called it confidence based on nothing) and saw how these guys and, more rarely, women would really succeed. In business where there is a lot of uncertainty, no one wanted you to say "I think" "I believe" - even "experience shows you" --- it has to be "it will" and "it is." And, watching the Bush administration abuse this and how he got another term out of it...amazing.

Great links for SPIN and the Ponzi Avenger. INK (the trailer is on the sidebar on youtube) also looked like fun.

Clownfish said:

That's not technically true. Chemo is poison, straight up. Just as ant poison could potentially completely eliminate your home's carpenter ant infestation, chemo can potentially do the same. The only real question is whether your body can withstand the amount of chemo that would be necessary to eliminate all of the tumor. Surgery is not necessarily more (or even as) effective as chemo; it depends on the grade and stage. It is true that metastatic cancer is essentially never cured by chemo (or anything else), although sometimes life is extended long enough that you just die of something else.

That's my happy thought for the day.

Hi Clownfish. Thanks for the happy thought. It's not just the tumor that chemotherapy is used for. Even in the early stages of cancer, there is the possibility that a few cancer cells may have spread, and that is why chemotherapy is used on those whose cancer has not metastized as far as can be determined. Even if the tumor is small and only a few lymph nodes are involved, some of the pesky cancer cells may have already spread elsewhere and may be forming a new tumor. Hopefully the chemo eliminates these stray cancer cells, but it's not 100% certain that the chemo will do that. Chemo kills cancer cells based upon cell division, which is why there are multiple treatments. Most people who have early stage cancer and then have chemotherapy will later discover that their cancer has recurred, even if many years later. Obviously, if one withstood enough chemo to kill every cancer cell possible, it would also kill the person, and this is why it is true that chemo does not cure cancer.

metastized

duh... that should be "metastatised"

It's not just the tumor that chemotherapy is used for. Even in the early stages of cancer, there is the possibility that a few cancer cells may have spread, and that is why chemotherapy is used on those whose cancer has not metastized as far as can be determined.

In oncology, the word tumor has a broader meaning than simply a solid ball of cells. Tumor refers to any neoplastic/anaplastic cells, from my understanding. This is true even of the hematologic cancers (leukemia, et al). Excess blasts on CBC or bone marrow aspirate would technically be considered tumor.

Many, but not all, cancers recur after "successful" treatment. CML, for instance, always will if you live long enough. Something like uterine cancer, given early surgical and chemo intervention, quite possibly never will. Cancers that have metastasized to just a few lymph nodes might be completely cured, but in this case, probably only with the addition of lymphoid irradiation therapy added on.

Actually, I was thinking of ovarian cancer, but uterine cancer is probably in the same boat.

Cancers that have metastasized to just a few lymph nodes might be completely cured

Metastisize means to to cause a secondary tumor. This does not normally occur in lymph nodes. The cancer cells spread via the circulatory blood system and may metastisize in some other location other than the foot or breast or where ever it was that the cancer cells where first detected.

If the cancer cells have spread to a few lymph nodes (initially before they have metastisized), chemotherapy may or may not get them. So, yes, it is possible that chemo might "cure" the cancer, but it's basically a roll of the dice. There are many circumstances when simple surgery would be just as effective, but one never knows.

It is also true that different types of cancer have entirely different characteristics. I am familiar with breast cancer, which is a relatively slow-growing cancer, and that will naturally color one's understanding.

You're right, I think I used the term metastasize incorrectly.

On the issue of cancerous cells spreading via the circulatory system--that's absolutely true; however, to a [widely varying] extent, these cells can be/should be destroyed by the immune system. Unfortunately, the system is not always batting 1.000.

Edit:

The cancer cells will most likely spread through the lymph nods. But they also spread via the circulatory blood system. This is why even if one is in the early stages of cancer, that is small tumor and few lymph nodes affected, that does not mean that the cancer cells have not spread elsewhere.

Edit 2:

or where ever it was that the cancer cells where first detected.

or where ever it as that the cancer cells were first detected.

In the end, you're right Clownfish. Chemo might potentially "cure" cancer, but in the end the pros who speak of cancer never speak of cancer being cured. They say that the cancer "is in remission". This is more realistic.

Not that any of this should get in the way of feeling all positive and stuff though.

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