Can Resorting to Extreme Diets Cure Cancer?

Cancer, Complementary Healing, Diets

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, friends and relatives often try to help by offering ‘helpful’ tips. Diagnosis of such illness are often traumatising for both the patient and the family members- after all,  no one is prepared for such news. There is no denying that a lot of these are offered based on good intention, because the person friend’s friend’s auntie’s third sister had tried a particular method and it seemed to work. Some however, take the opportunity to ride on the vulnerability of the situation to sell some products/services.

Example of “tips” offered:

  • Going on organic, fasting or other extreme diets with the intention to ‘starve the cancer cells’ and detox
  • Stop eating meat or certain kinds of “cancer enhancing” food
  • Eat certain brand of supplements
  • Take herbs
  • Buy certain brand of water filter
  • Go for detox like coffee enema, liver cleanse, etc

The above needs to be taken with a strong pinch of salt. Sure, reducing red meat and using filtered water can improve health but drastically switching diets or going for extreme detox may not be workable from an already compromised immune system. The Guardian ran a very useful article on 3 June 09 called Harmful Changes writen by Denis Campbell. The article mentioned that resorting to extreme diets such as fasting, vegan, drinking only fruit/vegetable juices, etc may do more harm than good.

We believe that there is a place for complementary (not alternative) approaches to cancer treatment. By that, we do not mean alternative or complementary medicine, but holistic approaches like tai chi, qi gong, aromatherapy or diet,” he elaborates.
Alternative medicine cannot be accepted, because there have been no randomised, controlled, blinded studies done to prove their efficacy or safety.
“We cannot take anecdotal reports to highlight the benefits of a treatment. Currently, only mainstream medicine is evidence-based.”~ Dr Gurcharan Singh (
Malaysian Oncological Society) 

I feel sad that due to ignorance, many had resorted to all types of unproven methods for cures. And many people refuse to opt for conventional treatment because it seems that people die due to chemo/radiotherapy. Well, here’s what my mom and her group of friends who are retired staff nurses have to say about that:

1. Going on extreme diets instead of seeking treatment

  • a number of people, who are initially diagnosed with early stage of the cancer decided to opt for purely holistic treatment involving detox or unproven diets. Especially those on vegan diet who deprive their bodies of the nutrient (animal protein) necessary for their good cells to rebuilt themselves eventually end up with an advanced stage of cancer. And by the time they go to the hospital, they are already Stage IV (very advanced stage)- what can the hospital do? And when the patient dies, the hospital takes the blame for not being effective.

2. Private hospital lacking the facilities/expertise

  • certain private hospital may lack the expertise and equipment necessary for treatment- and they still continue to treat the patient because the patient or the insurance company still can pay. Once the money runs out, the patient is then referred to a government hospital- who again had to take the blame for ‘killing’ the patient.

3. Government hospitals does not treat a patient until it is late

  • there may be exceptions but from what I have been told, government hospitals can never turn away any patient. Furthermore, hospitals like Selayang Hospital is now equipped with state of art technology and they have good researchers and doctors there. What’s more, it is affordable.

Now I hope that the ‘rumors’ you hear about hospitals, especially government hospitals not being effective are clarified. Government hospitals are concerned about treated the illness as quickly as possible. They have no time to ask the patient to ‘try this new method’ or ‘take that’ unless they are absolutely sure of its effectiveness. They are not interested in money either since the treated is literally free. Just that the condition may, well, be a bit down and run down. Still, I don’t deny that there are cancer patients who are diagnosed early and don’t make it- but the risk is the same regardless of whether treatment is seek from government or private hospitals.

Real Cases

Let me share with you real life accounts of cancer patient who I personally have known:

1. My best friend’s father- diagnosed with advanced lung cancer

He resorted to organic diet, went down to Malacca to have a special vitamin C or oxygen liquid or something injected into his veins. After each session (quite expensive), he felt energised but after a few days, feel tired again. He opted for conventional treatment but due to the organic diet (which reduced his body to a pack of skin and bones), he was too weak to fight the disease. At the end stage (where the cancer spread to his bones and brain), he had to be on a tablet called Ireza that cost about RM200 per tablet and have to be taken once a day- the tablet kept him alive while he was on it. The tablet was prescribed by doctors. Then, another relative recommended another expensive herb (but cheaper than Ireza) from a direct selling company in Hong Kong. Not long after he went off the tablet, he passed away.

2. My mom’s elder sister- diagnosed with NPC (nose cancer)

Also resorted to not taking meat and go for organic diet. Refused to seek treatment and try all types of supplements or herbs that people say ‘is good’.  Initially, was diagnosed early stage but due to the delay, by the time she seek treatment, it was already advanced stage. She passed away a few years ago, also due to secondaries.

3. A family friend- diagnosed with stomach cancer

Also opted for organic diet at first. Then when realise that it does not seemed to work, slowly started taking back a bit of meat. By that time, the cancer had spread. Spent the entire fortune seeking treatment in Singapore.

4. A friend- diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her story is told in a previous post. She had opted for conventional treatment. Today, she is still working but had learned to lead a more balanced life and consciously learn to reduce stress.

5. My mom’s friend- diagnosed with womb cancer

As she is a staffnurse, she had opted for conventional treatment of surgery and chemotherapy. She was very weak as the result of the chemo and had wanted to give up but constant prayers and encouragement from her cell group led her on. It has been more than 10 years now and she is still working with a semi goverment hospital.

 Detection and Treatment

Up until today, cancer detection and treatment are vital for higher survival rate. Patients are also strongly advised to reduce stress. Learning to let go, forgive, and get the necessary help such as conselling to deal with the fear, past traumas or negative emotions. The patient will need to all the mental strength, courage, understanding, acceptance and willpower if he/she wants to live.

There is a blog documented by a cancer patient named Hee Boon. He was diagnosed with lung cancer despite not being a smoker- he had tried all sorts of suggestions but sadly he had spent the earlier days going for alternatives. He had commented on how each method affects him- so it will be good for someone who wants to know more to go through the blog- from beginning to end of his days.

Another good resource to check out is Quackwatch.org, a non profit site that exposes all kinds of dubious and cancer frauds backed by solid research and real life cases. Consult NGOs like Cancerlink and Makna who generally have the most updated information and solid research..

Please note that I am not saying other complimentary treatments like qi gong, reiki, counselling, etc cannot work- on the contrary, I am a great believer that breathing exercises like qi gong and tai chi will help the patient to relax (due to the practice of deep breathing) and improve the immune system. What I am against is unproven herbs/supplements/organic diet taken as the only self prescribed treatment- and the patient is convinced by people not to undergo conventional treatment.

Cancer is very much the disease of the mind as well as the body.  Just leave the body to the professionals- it’s their job to offer the most appropriate treatment. The cancer patient needs to be concerned only in taking care of the matters pertaining his/her heart (and I don’t mean the physical heart) and mind.

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