Volume 8 Issue 1- Nurse Patricia Peat


Originally published in icon Spring 2009


I was diagnosed with bowel cancer two years ago which had spread into my lymph nodes. I was operated on and since then had chemotherapy and have now been told I need some more. Since diagnosis I have been interested in Complementary and Alternative (CAM) approaches but also have not wanted to do anything detrimental to my treatment. I have looked into diet, supplements and other treatments, but everytime I have raised the subject with my oncology team they have told me that everything is a waste of time and money and will make no difference. I have been told to eat whatever I want, particularly high fat and sugar to get me through treatment. I know this is completely opposite to everything you say, what am I supposed to believe?


I am sorry you are finding yourself in this situation of opposing viewpoints. Many oncology teams are beginning to take notice of the large amounts of quality research evidence supporting good nutrition and the support of natural compounds with cancer but unfortunately many are still not up to date on current research.

Many people like you ask why this situation exists, where their orthodox team have definite views that everything other than their methods is harmful. One reason for this is the sources by which doctors get their information have never included anything other than research carried out in the orthodox world. There is little time in a busy schedule to look into other areas and the governing bodies in the UK of these professions do not encourage training in nutrition and ‘holism’, nor encourage doctors and nurses to broaden their minds in finding ways of helping people.

It used to be thought that a good scientist had an open and enquiring mind and that the practice of medicine was an art, sadly neither can be thought of in that way now. For example, research from the San Diego school of medicine recently showed a new mechanism whereby consumption of milk and red meat products can contribute to the increased risk of cancerous tumours and promote growth. Despite research studies like this, nothing seems to influence the advice given out by the hospitals. The advice they give is not research based, I have never found a scrap of evidence to show that the diets they promote have been proven healthy for someone with cancer, and they are supposed to be a research based practice.

On the broader subject of CAM treatments and clinics, I don’t know of a single practitioner that has been approached by Cancer Research UK, Cancerbackup etc to ask them about their work and results before they post their statements on their websites denouncing them. Interestingly I rang Cancerbackup last year about something they said about an approach. I told them their findings were very different to the experience I had seen from it and would they be interested to hear my views – they were not. I asked them how they did their research and come to their conclusions. Their answer was that they had read it on another website! That was the extent of their research.

At the moment we have a fragmented and polarised service for people with cancer which does not serve anybody well. It is high time that money and time was put into really establishing what really benefits people and at the same time get rid of the charlatans who waste people’s time, money and hopes.

As you find yourself stuck in the middle of the totally unsatisfactory situation, the only advice I can give you is ensure your information sources are good ones, bear in mind all is not as black and white as your oncology team may tell you and trust your own instincts for what is the right way for you to gain the best health you can. (Ed: CANCERactive was set up to be a trustworthy source of research evidence on all matters of CAM. On the subject of diet and chemotherapy, we did look into patient complaints we received two years ago that top hospital Dieticians were giving out booklets advocating sugary, salt and dairy-ladened diets, with small pictures of cheeseburgers, milk shakes and sticky buns at the bottom of every page. This is at the same time our Government is telling us all to avoid such foods and flies in the face of serious research that actually links some of these to increased risks of cancer! As a result you can find a sensible ‘Diet for Chemotherapy’ on our web site at www.canceractive.com under ‘chemotherapy’)


I gather cyberknife treatment is now available in London. I have an oesophageal tumour which I have been told is inoperable. Do you know if cyberknife treatment would be suitable for me?


Cyberknife is certainly a welcome addition and alternative to surgery for some difficult to reach tumours. Unfortunately it is unlikely that it will be suitable for you as the nature of oesophageal cancer is that tumour replaces the oesophageal wall. If this has not happened then it is worth looking into.  As cyberknife removes tumours by radiosurgery, eradication of the surgery would possible leave a hole in the oesophagus wall. It is possible that some debulking can be done if there is danger of the tumour obstructing the oesophagus completely and stenting is not possible but other than that I am afraid it would not be helpful for you.

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