“As a crab is furnished with claws on both sides of its body, so, in this disease, the veins which extend from the tumour represent with it a figure much like a crab.”
So wrote Roman physician Galen two thousand years ago, speculating on why, some 600 years earlier, Hippocrates had used the Greek word “carcinos” for crab to describe abnormal growths on the body. Our word “cancer” is the Latin translation of “carcinos.”
Although doctors long ago learned to recognize this fearsome disease, they didn’t have much to offer in terms of treatment. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. Over the years, physicians tried everything from pulverized crab ointments to cauterizing cancerous lesions with red hot metal. Some even resorted to “sympathetic magic,” believing that placing a live crab on a tumour would allow the disease to be transferred to the animal. Such methods had about as much chance of success as the various cancer “cures” that populate the web today.
Being in the science-communication business requires currency with both the scientific and pseudo-scientific gusts of information that blow through the Internet. That’s why I subscribe to a large number of newsfeeds, including ones with seductive titles such as Cancer Defeated, Underground Health Reporter, Step Outside the Box, Natural Cures Not Medicine, Nutrition and Healing, The Alternative Daily, Expression of Truth and Reality Health Check. Although these newsletters have various agendas, they do have a common theme: there is a conspiracy between “Big Pharma” and mainstream medicine to hide effective “natural” cancer cures from the public. Regulatory agencies are also seen as part of the conspiracy, accused of being in the pocket of multinational corporations that are out to destroy people’s health.
Luckily, we are told, there are “maverick scientists” out there who “swim bravely against the tide.” There is talk of “insider secrets that stop cancer in its tracks” and promises of “exposure of mainstream medicine’s deadliest conspiracies.” Of course “you can’t hear about these secrets from your doctor, but you shouldn’t blame him because his hands are tied, and he could even lose his licence for recommending safe, natural alternatives to toxic cancer drugs.” Hogwash!
Often the newsletters feature a video that we are urged to view quickly because “it might not be available for long since powerful interests are hell bent on minimizing the damage it is doing to corporate medicine’s profit machine.” Gee, aren’t we fortunate to have all these daring doctors and scientists who are willing to reveal their scintillating, cutting-edge, dazzling research as they “battle vested interests” in the name of truth?
Make no mistake about it, all these champions of “alternative” treatments have their own vested interest. There is always a book to buy, a “health letter” to subscribe to or a product to purchase. Often the hook is a video that describes some gallant researcher whose natural cure for cancer was laughed at, but which according to the testimonials provided “produces such spectacular results that the only side effect is chronic good health.”
But you can take this to the bank: there is no conspiracy to keep cancer cures from the public. If you do want to look for a conspiracy, take a look at those who are trying to make a buck from promoting the notion that such a conspiracy exists.