Issue 8 / 11 March 2013

LAST week I spent some time in the parallel universe of alternative cancer treatments — products that often make huge promises with little evidence to support either their safety or efficacy.

I was looking into the so-called black salves, topical treatments that supporters claim have been “successfully removing cancer of all kinds for generations”.

That quote is from an international petition calling on governments around the world to “decriminalise” use of the products in humans.

Apparently, we are being denied access to these miracle cures by a conspiracy of government and private interests set on protecting the “trillion dollar [cancer] industry that allows legalised experimentation on human beings”.

In fact, as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warned last year, black salves are escharotics, that is, corrosive pastes that burn off tissue, cancerous or otherwise.

Although these products are not on the Register of Therapeutic Goods and thus cannot be legally marketed in Australia, it’s not hard to find sites spruiking them online under various names including Cansema, Bloodroot and red salve.

Dr Stephen Barrett, founder of the Quackwatch site, has documented some of the horror stories resulting from use of these supposedly “natural” cures.

He details one case about a woman whose naturopath diagnosed a bump on her nose as cancerous and told her to apply a black herbal salve: “Within a few days, [the patient’s] face became very painful and she developed red streaks that ran down her cheeks. Her anxious phone call to the naturopath brought the explanation that the presence of the lines was a good sign because they ‘resemble a crab, and cancer is a crab’. He also advised her to apply more of the black salve. Within a week, a large part of her face, including her nose, sloughed off.”

There’s a photo on the Quackwatch site, though it’s not for the squeamish. It took 3 years and 17 plastic surgery operations to reconstruct the women’s face.

None of that is likely to affect the views of devoted fans, who include Meryl Dorey, former leader of Australia’s most virulent anti-vaccination group, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN).

Ms Dorey was one of the subjects of a complaint to the TGA last year about online advertising of black salves as a cure for cancer.

In an online interview detailed by the TGA, Ms Dorey had sung the praises of the “combination of herbs and minerals” known as black salve, or nature’s scalpel, which she said had been used for at least 2000 years.

“Now, I’ve used it myself um, on a cancer that I had on my shoulder and I’ve gotta tell you it is like a scalpel, it cut it out in a perfect circle. Um, and it got rid of it completely”, she said in the interview.

The TGA found the claims that black salve was a treatment or cure for cancer, and that it was safe and free of side effects, were misleading, unverified and illegal. Ms Dorey and her colleagues were required to publish a retraction and cease promoting the product.

Did they learn from the experience? It doesn’t look like it.

Being reined in by bodies like the TGA just feeds the conspiracy theories.

The AVN website still lists a DVD promoting black salves among its products although you can’t actually buy the DVD: “Important — Please Note — the Australian Government do NOT want you to know about the information contained in this video”, the website trumpets in oversized red type.

Shysters making improbable claims about various remedies and cures have always been with us, and cancer patients are probably more vulnerable than most to their hype.

An eminently sensible position statement from the Cancer Council was released last week and suggested that about half of all cancer patients in developed countries might be using complementary and alternative therapies.

Of course, many of the non-medical approaches taken by cancer patients are harmless or even beneficial. Adopting a healthier diet or meditation can be useful adjuncts to conventional treatment.

However, others can cause harmful side-effects or interactions with other treatment, which makes it particularly disturbing that fewer than half of cancer patients who use alternative treatments reveal that fact to their doctors.

The Cancer Council’s excellent series of recommendations urges patients to reveal their use of alternative treatments to their doctors, as well as encouraging conventional health care providers to routinely discuss such therapies with patients and survivors “in an open and non-judgemental manner”.

That surely has to be the best chance we have of combating the black salves of this world.


Jane McCredie is a Sydney-based science and medicine writer.

Posted 11 March 2013

33 thoughts on “Jane McCredie: Caustic cancer cures

  1. J says:

    It’s somewhat concerning that Quackwatch is being used to support your point of view. When we are cautioned that we can’t trust everything we read on the internet, it’s the Quackwatch site that should come to mind.
    I have personally used black salve with success on my skin cancer (albeit undiagnosed) but have a friend who has successfully used it on 2 diagnosed carcinomas.
    There is no conspiracy here. It’s about money. Why would the pharmaceutical industry fund studies for black salve when there is no money to be made?
    Be nice if the Cancer Council threw some money at it but, for reasons best known to them, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

  2. Illyria says:

    It’s interesting that when people put up information, the anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists rally the troops to come in and push their agenda. It’s typical of them to make such claims about curing undiagnosed issues such as cancer, but if you think that through how can they know it’s cancer when it’s undiagnosed? The simple answer is that they cannot. So they cannot claim to have cured what they don’t have, yet they still do. Makes you wonder why they do it? Well it’s what they need to do in the face of all the evidence against what they believe, they have to make it up.

    Now, as for the 2 diagnosed melanomas, well melanoma goes well below the skin level so you cannot remove it by rubbing something on the skin, so I call shenanigans there too.

    The article is well set out and factual, for medical advice go see a doctor. Natural medicine works in conjunction with actual medicine, not as a replacement to it. Claims that natural medicine has been in use for 2000+ years is true, but history shows us that it is for the most part ineffective and that’s why doctors/scientists have developed actual medicine that has reduced the suffering and death.

  3. Dr. ARC says:

    Doctors go through a basic training of at least 6 years and then spend many more in training and specialising. Their diagnosis and treatment is scientifically and evidence based, albeit not always right and sometimes dependent on a second opinion.
    The Quacks however, are not scientifically trained, and promulgate the use of generally unproven remedies which at best are useless, but at worse cause untolded and sometimes expensive and irreversible harm to our patients.
    If an individual practises medicine without a license to do so, they are guilty of a punishable crime. How come these Quacks are not charged and given a custodial sentence?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have recently had a couple of family members being subjected to quackery. These are two intelligent, rational people, yet due to ignorance of specifics in human physiology and disease, were talked into rubbish ‘treatments’ by smooth talking individuals. When they have asked me for an opinion on what is happening, their hope that I will concur with the treatment is plain to see. When I focus on some of the details and try to determine what they are actually being sold you can see that hope being dashed. No one wants to be played like a fool, but people are inherently trusting of authority figures, which quacks are very effective in present themselves as. I actually feel bad in some ways for questioning their decisions to receive these treatments, as you can tell it upsets them to realise they’ve been promised a cure which probably doesn’t exist.

    My grandfather has mesothelioma and recently flew to the Philippines to receive a chemosensitising and laser ‘treatment’. He was told he was cured at the end of 14 days, because his CEA (!) was normal. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was bogus, as I’m pretty sure it would crush him. He wants so desperately to think that he has done everything he can to treat his disease, but has been sold false hope by a charlatan. I don’t know if it makes me angry, so much as disappointed in myself that I didn’t try to convince him to not waste his money before he spent it. Somehow not pushing the issue seemed the right thing to do, as he was a dying man desperate for hope, but now I’m not so sure.

  5. Michelle says:

    The case you highlight in the article is obviously concerning. Unfortunately, the Cancer Council’s report gives the impression CAM is unsafe in general. It would have been more useful if they were able to elaborate on the statement: “While there is evidence to support the use of some complementary therapies, alternative therapies are typically unproven or have been shown to be ineffective” and discuss specific therapies and nutrients. As ASMI mentioned, people who use unsafe or ineffective complementary medicines, and ones that carry outrageous health claims, have either purchased them online or bought them overseas where the safety and quality can not be guaranteed – like the individual in your case. There are extremes and there is obviously a difference between cancer patients who take a fish oil supplement for good health and those who expect an herb to cure their cancer.

    Also, to refer to all natural medicine advocates as “quacks” is disrespectful and does nothing to enhance your credibility or to promote useful discussion in the industry.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Re: Michelle
    “people who use unsafe or ineffective complementary medicines, and ones that carry outrageous health claims, have either purchased them online or bought them overseas where the safety and quality can not be guaranteed”
    – This is plainly not true. There are plenty of examples of ineffective, unsafe, and over-promised complementary medicines being peddled in Australia, which cause detriment to patients through the neglected adoption of scientifically-proven medicine.

    “to refer to all natural medicine advocates as “quacks” is disrespectful and does nothing to enhance your credibility or to promote useful discussion in the industry”
    – I said nothing about ‘all naturopaths’ being quacks. Please don’t strawman my point. If my dying grandfather is conned out of his money by someone promising a cure for the incurable, then I frankly don’t care if calling that person a quack is disrespectful, as they are a con-artist deserving of the utmost contempt.

  7. Anonymous says:

    One of my very close friends received serious burns, that have been infected by Pseudomonas, from using “Black Slave”. Her father is fighting melanoma and she was worried that she may become a victim too. Instead, she has unfortunately become a victim to those who continue to sell and peddle “Black Salve”. She is currently receiving treatment to her infection, and is facing future surgery to repair any scarring, she does not yet know how much of her nose will be left. If anyone who reads this is considering to use “Black Salve” please don’t.

  8. brunibrewin says:

    Some medicine too is unsafe even after ‘scientific evidence based research’ with all that training. Nothing new about that if you look into your history. Unsuspecting doctors with all their training take others words about safety as verbatim.

    Yes, some people will take advantage of people who have lost hope by conventional methods – a last ditch effort so to speak when other things have failed. People will always prey on the gullible.

    There can also be some credence in how we could do a lot more in evidence based research, and ask ourselves, why don’t we? An increase of life from 49% to 69% for a further five years of life after cancer – over a 20 years span – does make one wonder… what politics are at play that prevent a better outcome then this? If I elect to have the cancer removed but forgo the chemotherapy and radiation – will I get a better prognosis? I know two people who made that decision over 20 years ago and are still alive today. One was told to go home and write her will, the other had his whole rectum removed – fluke, or do we say they didn’t take quack advice?

    Again, this is to highlight the difference between the obvious shonks that prey on vulnerable people as distinct from those that have done training in their own methods that support an outcome – not always scientific evidence based purely through lack of research, and therefore lack of evidence, but it works!

    Incidentally, the FDA in the US is being asked to allow genetically modified salmon to be passed on to the consumer. This genetically modified fish is twice as large and spawns more often. We don’t know the long term affects on people nor the environment – are we going to be guinea pigs so that others make big money in the process until we find out?

  9. Daph says:

    I call all naturopaths quacks. They peddle homeopathy and iridology and other bogus treatments that do nothing but deliver false hope. Disrespectful? I certainly hope so. Respect shouldn’t be extended to practitioners of faith based ‘medicine’. It’s one thing to target the worried well and offer them ineffectual treatments for their hypochondria, but it’s another thing altogether to sell a corrosive salve to a cancer patient.

    I’m glad the Cancer Council has commented on these alternative treatments, but I think they do cancer patients a disservice by adopting a relatively neutral stance on the issue provided the treatments are not harmful. Sure, memory water isn’t harmful, and acupuncture with sterile needles does nothing good or bad, but being chronically ill is expensive. There’s no reason to be neutral about useless treatments that empty the wallets of those frequently unable to work through illness. Having some new agey type wave their hands wildly above your body in order to impart you with ‘energy’ is expensive when your income has been reduced to whatever Centrelink deems appropriate to dole out to the chronically ill. That said, I’ll still be throwing the CC my business for all things sun related. Their toddler sunscreen is cheap and perfect for my own sensitive skin, disease causing nanoparticles and all!

  10. J says:

    Hi Illyria, Firstly the skin cancer that you believe wasn’t cured by black salve was Basal-cell carcinoma, not Melanoma. “Claims that natural medicine has been in use for 2000+ years is true, but history shows us that it is for the most part ineffective and that’s why doctors/scientists have developed actual medicine that has reduced the suffering and death.” General statements like this are truly unhelpful and remember too that what you call “actual medicine” is also responsible for thousands of deaths each year as well as much suffering.

  11. christine56 says:

    I see someone has already asked why reference was made to (struck off Doctor) Stephen Barrett. Why can’t Black Salve be used under the guidance of a Specialist? Have you watched the DVD? – the medical alternative is Aldara and by all accounts is a very dangerous medicine but it has the approval of the TGA.
    Jane McCredie quoted Meryl Dorey supposedly saying “Now, I’ve used it myself um, on a cancer that I had on my shoulder and I’ve gotta tell you it is like a scalpel, it cut it out in a perfect circle. Um, and it got rid of it completely”, she said in the interview. I notice that she put a few um’s in it specifically to make Meryl sound uninformed and stupid (and anyone that might be of the same opinion). I find this highly offensive, especially when she has the audacity to quote Quackwatch. Is it any wonder that people ask questions of the sincerity of the Medics?

  12. Lorraine says:

    Since when has Zinc Chloride [ZnCL], an acid used in the manufacture of textiles, and Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a by-product of the wood industry, been considered as natural? I googled the ingredients of black salve, after my friends skin was damaged, and found that there is no standard for what ingredients are used. The only two ingredients most of the salve recipes I cited had was ZnCl and DMNSO, and either bloodroot or Chapparal [or combination of both]. Yes the American Indians might have made a salve to treat skin ailments out of blackroot, but they certainly didn’t add an industrial acid and DMSO into the mix. Bloodroot contains the alkaloid sanguinarine , which is an ammonium salt. Ammonium salts also burn the skin and cause necrosis. Studies have been done on sanguinarine on cancer, but further studies are needed. There are many natural therapies that claim to cure skin cancer; the most interesting one I found was eggplant. Many of our modern medications [too numerous to list] are plant derived, e.g digitalis, but you wouldn’t be foolish enough to go and chew on few leaves to regulate your pulse, you take a carefully dosed tablet. I also found that there are 5 medications on the market that use marijuana derivatives,…..so much for the big pharma vs marijuana conspiracy theories. My point is; how do you know what black salve is? Wouldn’t the various manufacturers try to make it as cheaply as possible, so how do you know what you are getting? If you don’t make the salve yourself, how do you know it even contains any Bloodroot, and not just a cheap mix of ZnCl and DMSO? So all you supporters of Black salve, please tell us exactly what the black salve you purchased contains? I hope your luck is better than my friend’s was.

  13. Alex Crandon says:

    Interesting article that I must comment on. It epitomises the saying that looks are only skin deep but stupidity and gullibility goes all the way to the bone.
    Firstly, I am an Oncology Surgeon who works in the area of gynaecology and have been doing so for over 30 years.
    A few weeks ago I saw a young woman (in her 30s) who had been treated for vulval cancer about 18 months to 2 years ago. Last year she noticed a small ulcer appear on the anterior vulva. She re-attended her hospital where she was on follow-up of her previous vulval cancer and a biopsy confirmed that she had a recurrent cancer. She was advised to have this new lesion excised but headed off to her naturopath.
    This person just accepted whatever the woman told her. No attempt was made to confirm the pathological diagnosis and Black Salve was prescribed which the woman applied religiously. The Black Salve was described as burning and caused intense pain. Eventually the tumour fell off and the patient believed she was cured; that was until another tumour arose in the same place. Another prescription for Black Salve and again the same results – intense pain, the lesion fell off and then regrew.
    Eventually the woman attended my clinic. She was fearful of having big surgery so I explained that there was another approach that could be tried but was not proven. That was to do a local excision of the lesion and then radiotherapy to the area. This she agreed to and the surgery was undertaken. The pathology report showed that there was, as the first biopsy had said, a new vulval cancer, which as expected, had not been adequately excised so that the surgery could have cured the problem. Therefore further treatment in the form of radiotherapy was needed.
    The patient has now disappeared off in the hands of the naturopathic community to have heaven only knows what unproven treatments. Experience tells me I’ll see her again but next time she’s likely to have incurable disease and when I tell her that I’ll be the worst in the world and she’ll head back to the naturopaths who’ll tell her what she wants to hear.

  14. Sue Ieraci says:

    Stephen Barrett is not a “struck off doctor” – he is a retired psychiatrist who has received many awards for exposing scams and dangerous anti-science practises. Jane McCredie is a journalist – not a “Medic”, and Meryl Dorey is an anti-vaccination campaigner with no training in any area of health care. NO questions of sincerity here – only of credibility.

  15. Colin says:

    I find the alternative/complementary vrs modern medicine argument humerous at the least for one simple reason. Once a treatment is proven effective and having an acceptable safety profile, it becomes main-stream medicine. The source of the therapy is irrelevant. This would be why so many other health professionals work in conjunction with doctors. Their treatments provide proven benifits. These include psychologists, pysiotherapists, dietitians, speech pathologists etc etc etc

  16. Alex Crandon says:

    Colin,
    You’re absolutely correct. Once there is consistent evidence that a treatment works it does tend to become part of mainstream conventional medicine. There are two things that are not humerous about the current divide:
    1. There is nothing humerous about the wasted lives, destroyed families and terrible patient disasters we, in conventional medicine, have to pick up after the complimentary and alternative practitioners (CAM) have had a go, and
    2. The CAM group, after what they claim is 2000+ years of use, have yet to come up with any evidence that what they do works.
    I have never had anyone from CAM say for example, that with cancer “X” if I give treatment “Y” then “Z” percent will still be alive in 5-years based on “n” number of past cases. They just tout motherhood statements but have no facts or figures.

  17. Colin says:

    I totally agree with most of what you’re saying Alex. I have seen horror stories from alternative practitioners. Personally though I think one must take care not to be biased based on the small window of experience we have with this field.
    I suspect you would have to admit as a gynae. onc. your subset of patients are a significant minority of the vast amount of patients that seek CAM. Also the impact of alternative therapy in these patients, has a far greater impact when they flee conventional therapy. From this point of view, it is no doubt unfair to presume that all alternative practitioners are as immoral as the ones that choose to treat malignant disease when conventional medicine can still offer a cure.
    Would you wish to be presumed to have the same qualities as the worst 1% of doctors?
    Personally I think CAM by and large is benign and plays a positive role in that it ‘de-medicalises’ a large group of people that mostly constitute the worried well. And often these people can end up harmed or just an expensive drain on the conventional medical system.
    The danger in CAM is that is essentally unregulated and can be a playground for those who wish to take advantage of those in need.
    Also I think care needs to be taken in touting their lack of evidence. A recent O&G journal gave some pretty good examples of accepted best practice and how much of it was evidence based. Lack of evidence does not always denote unsafe practice.

  18. Anonymous says:

    There is nothing wrong with CAM and it saddens me that most medical professionals are extremely ignorant to the benefits. My father had stage 11B NSCLC. He underwent chemo and radiation which almost killed him only to have it come back in the other lung, pelvis and neck stage IV. At this time he then agreed to start some natural therapies and change his diet. His scans 6 weeks later showed no cancer and 2 years later he still is cancer free. His only limitations at present are SOB from damage from radiotherapy and peripheral neuropathy from the chemo.
    Please dont write off all natural treatments because they really can work!

  19. J says:

    Alex it’s interesting that the patient in your first comment appears, from what you have described, some success using black salve, yet you do not believe that this product is worth investigating?
    It’s disappointing that most oncologists simply dismiss and ridicule alternative therapies such as black salve without any apparent investigation.
    Your statement ” There is nothing humerous about the wasted lives, destroyed families and terrible patient disasters we, in conventional medicine, have to pick up after the complimentary and alternative practitioners ” is absolutely outstanding. The figures in Australia are particularly hard to come by but I’d bet that we run pretty well parallel with the U.S. Do you know that in excess of 250,000 people die each year due to iatrogenic causes? Well that was the approximate figure in 2000, it’s possibly increased a little by then. So I suggest that you consider your argument a little before you begin throwing stones at something that you are not well versed in.
    And yes the cancer industry has all the facts and figures behind it to convince most people to undergo conventional treatment. But personally, I don’t trust anyone who would tell me I’m cured when I still had cancer 5 years after diagnosis.
    This happened to my mother: officially she was cured of cancer but died 5 and a half years after diagnosis of that very disease – it was never eradicated. Perhaps she should have tried an alternative therapy?

  20. Nirvana Anderson says:

    I am the person who started the petition to decriminalise Black Salve.

    Integrity is of the utmost importance to me and I would never support anything that could harm people unnecessarily.

    I, unlike those who condemn the salve without further investigation, took the time to listen to the success stories and then tried it for myself, achieving amazing results. Results far superior to those achieved by my father who was completely mutilated by skin cancer treatments.

    Lastly, the cover up surrounding the success of this salve, including people being saved from terminal diagnoses (Tanya Anderson – Qld Ewings Sarcoma http://youtu.be/9ooNHlB5UEU ) is absolutely staggering. Sure, protect your obscene profits but don’t expect us to remain ‘sheeple’ when the evidence is overwhelming.

  21. The pot and the kettle says:

    This discussion is fascinating. Medicine asserts itself as a scientifically based discipline, and it is therefore logical that its approach to diseases, disorders and their treatments should be based on scientifically derived evidence. The concern expressed by medical practitioners over dubious treatments (prescribed using pseudoscientific justification) is in line with medicine’s scientific underpinnings. However there are inconsistencies in the extent to which many medical practitioners promote evidence based practices and treatments, depending on the particular condition in question. For example: there is widespread awareness of evidence based approaches to say cardiovascular disease, or immunization, this contrasts with an almost ubiquitous value based and emotive approach to ADHD and its treatments, especially stimulant medication. Few doctors realize that Ritalin has been used successfully and safely for over 50 years to treat ADHD – it is the most intensively studied medication in the whole of paediatric medicine. ADHD is also the most studied of any neuropsychiatric conditon. Despite irrefutable evidence that the disorder is impairing and has significant sequelae in all age groups and that it is in fact treatable (if not curable), it is grossly under treated and under recognised, particularly in adults. In fact the attitudes of many doctors towards the condition often exacerbate the stigma and shame that many people living with the condition are subjected to as a matter of course in society. It seems to me that until medicine can apply its own principles and philosophies consistently and in a non-hypocritical manner, that any protests about unsubstantiated practices are unfortunately diluted and farcical. Let’s take the log out of our own eye….

  22. Colin O'Shea says:

    In the past I have seen large numbers of iatrogenic deaths quoted in Australia for example of 125 00 in one year. When you actually go to the source they are refering to adverse outcomes. True these are deaths, but to infer they are iatrogenic is a clear distortion of the facts. I would say you either do not understand the stats you are referring to, or you are being deliberately deceptive. Post a reference if you are going to throw numbers around. Otherwise they remain meaningless.

  23. Sue Ieraci says:

    Even if J’s figures did reflect reality, it is a reality of a medical system that is obliged to accept and treat all-comers, regardless of problem, time of day, ability to pay, severity of disease, prognosis, age, underlying debility, lifestyle habits, workforce shortages. The number of adverse events is also a very small numerator compared to the enormous denominator of occasions of service in the orthodox health system. We also know about adverse events because medical systems monitor and audit themselves, and work to reduce error. Imagine if all health care were provided by homeopaths – how many errors of diagnosis or treatment then?

  24. Helen Lawson says:

    If this salve is so dangerous that it has been made illegal – where is the evidence? What tests have actually been carried out to prove it is dangerous? Having used it myself, I know it works. I had a BCC cut out of my head 6 years ago – totally gone, nothing to worry about, I was told by the surgeon. Yet, I now have the telltale scaliness that tells me it isn’t gone. Black Salve is demonised, yet the doctors get it wrong in quite a large percentage of cases. I’d really like to know the medical professions definition of ‘cured of cancer’. Like Arnie? I’ll be back! Yes, I think so. I forgot to put in some ‘um’s’ to define me as stupid! Oh well, next time!

  25. Colin O'Shea says:

    Anything used as a medicine, must not only be proved effective but safe also. Known harms are balanced with the indication for which it is being treated, and against alternative treatments. For example, some chemotherapy agents have pretty nasty side effects, but when you treat people with cancer with them alot more people survive their condition. There are a litany of medications that have never made it to marketing because of these principles, and many more that have been with drawn when post marketing side effects have become apparent.
    Since this ‘treatment’ basically works by killing all tissue it comes in contact with, I think its fairly safe to say there will never be a trial that could be done to prove its merits and side effects, as it would be entirely unethical. I appreciate 2000 years ago this may have been a reasonable treatment. One would hope science has brought us forward a little from those times.

  26. Sue Ieraci says:

    Helen Lawson – this “salve” works by tissue destruction – of both cancerous and healthy tissue – this is the only sense in which it “works”. Seeing the evidence is a simple as a picture search for Black Salve. Its other danger, of course, is that self-treatment of skin lesions precludes getting a definite diagnosis or confirmation that the edges and depth are safe. Of course excision isn’t 100% reliable, but that doesnt justify substituting something like this.

  27. Helen Lawson says:

    Speaking from personal experience, if it comes into contact with normal skin, there is no reaction at all. Even on pre-cancerous skin, only a slight redness will be evident. Tried again in a few months, it will remove the cancer. The ‘evidence’ – only photos on the net that I can find show how the salve removes only the cancerous tissue and then heals. Anything else is fiction. There are substitute salves and photos out there – fakes. It happens to a lot of products. It’s easy to sit in judgement – have the courage of your convictions and try it. Like most others, you will change your mind. I didn’t beleive it at first either. There is no substitute for personal experience.

  28. Alex Crandon says:

    Some fascinating points are being made; some very valid and some showing a dearth of knowledge about the subject of oncology. Firstly to clarify a question posed by Helen Lawson, viz., the definition of cure: “You are cured when you die of something else other than your cancer with NO evidence of your cancer present”. Problem – most people who die don’t have post-mortems performed so we don’t really know if they were free of their cancer. Obviously “cure” in the true sense of the word is far too hard to measure. Consequently we measure survival. To do this we only need to tell if a patient is alive or dead and, believe it or not the medical system can usually get that one right.
    Some of what was said about morbidity & mortality from conventional medicine is true. We know this to be the case because as another writer has said we are obliged to keep accurate records of outcomes. Why? So we can identify outcomes and performance by individual practitioner, by health care provider e.g., day care centre/hospital etc. and we can use that information to try to reduce avoidable treatment related morbidity and mortality. Again I ask the question: “Where are there any outcome statistics from CAM?” They don’t keep them and therefore, no matter how well intentioned they are they have no idea of whether or not their treatments work and what may be the quantity/quality of morbidity/mortality associated with those treatments. My view is that while there are quite a number of crooks/charlatans in CAM the majority have their hearts in the right place. They are trying to help and often they do but they are still working where conventional medicine was 200 years ago.
    We no longer give labouring or postpartum patients rye bread infected with claviceps purpurea to improve uterine contractility. The risk of ergot poisoning was and is too high. Now we have advanced to giving Ergometrine or its synthetic cousin Syntocinon. There are numerous examples similar to this.
    All I would ask is that CAM stay away from trying to treat cancer per se. If CAM want to help with a patients constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, insomnia, fine but do it with the doctors treating the cancer. BUT please stop trying to treat the cancers. It doesn’t work!

  29. The pot and the kettle says:

    In reply to a previous comment,, risk/benefit analysis for treatments is essential, and it is true that various interventions need to be compared on the same basis.

    With regard to my earlier comment regarding stimulant medicines for ADHD, why is it then that there is excessive emphasis on and reaction to any reported side effects, and almost no attention paid to the many and serious risks of untreated ADHD? This biased approach is unsurprisingly evident in lay media, however more unacceptably, it is evident in the medical media and also in a recent commentary in MJA insight. In the case of immunization, it is considered beneficial when the deleterious effects of infectious diseases are contextualised. The same logic needs to be employed in regard to treatments for every treatable or preventable medical condition. When this is done across the board, then perhaps then we can claim to pronounce and practise in a scientific, balanced and consistent way….

  30. Alex Crandon says:

    I am not certain whether “The pot and the kettle” have missed the point or whether there is some OCD involved but the original thread was about treating cancer, specifically with caustic substances such as Black Salve. It was NOT about ADHD.
    Go start a new discussion thread, this repetition on ADHD, as important as it is, does not interest oncologists.

  31. The pot and the kettle says:

    Alex, this article has relevance across medicine, given the variety of CAM treatments that are promoted and used.

    My arguments, using a specific example and from the perspective of a generalist, have been made to emphasise the fact that it is difficult to successfully challenge pseudoscientific dogma if doctors fail to recognise bias in their own thinking:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC555888/

    Scientific logic and principles apply to all disciplines of medicine, even if they sometimes do exist as silos.

  32. Richard Green says:

    I’m disturbed that the lead comment is yet another defamatory assault on Dr Stephen Barrett and Quackwatch.

    A libel suit that Dr Barrett won against serial quack Tedd Koren  was dismissed on appeal. This does not undermine the validity of Dr Barretts 40 years of health care advocacy. The fact that only the insane anti-vax, anti-science fringe attribute any signifigance to this court decision is a good indicator of wher the commenter is coming from. For more:
    http://www.chirobase.org/08Legal/koren/suit.html
     

  33. Sue Ieraci says:

    ”I’m disturbed that the lead comment is yet another defamatory assault on Dr Stephen Barrett and Quackwatch.” Richard – sites like MJA Insight are closely watched by people who have a vested interest in fighting opposition to things like ”black salve” – they will search out and target critical articles. The person signing on as Nirvana Anderson is a Queensland woman who campaigns against the use of the topical medication Imiquimod (”Aldara”) and in favour of the use of “Black Salve”. This has all become tied in with suspicion of ”Big Pharma” and orthodox medicine in general – there is a movement to promote ”Black Salve” – illogical as it may seem, it’s also tied up with free-speech and human rights campaigns! All this shows is that the anti-science movement is widespread on the social media and the internet in general. It’s no reflection on MJA Insight.

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