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Choices in Brain Tumor Treatment-By Jim Kenzig

Here is the original question, my response will follow below...

This is the person who wrote about her Grendel tumor a few months back. I am wondering if you could help me out with a news analysis I am writing for my (challenging) Journalism class.  I chose to write it about Alternative Medicine.  You have answered, and so patiently, so many questions on the subject, even when they reiterate.   Could alternative medicine be more harmful than helpful?

Detractors claim that people, for a variety of reasons, have faith in the "natural" aspect of alternative medicine.  With their lack of scientific knowledge they embrace alternative medicine, and sometimes forego conventional treatment that is effective. What is your stance on alternative medicine?  How much do you support it and recommend it?  Do you feel it needs more regulation, or scientific testing?

Any comments, ideas or resources you could offer me would be GREATLY appreciated!  I want to do all the research I can in the next forty-eight hours.


We will call this one--- The Pro's and Con's of alternative therapy as seen by Jim Kenzig

When a person is diagnosed with a deadly disease such as a brain tumor or cancer they are thrown into a world where they have to make a million decisions...each of which may weigh on the quality of how their possible remaining days of life will be spent.  The task increases a hundred fold if you are a parent who has to make the decisions for your sick child.  You can ask a million people their opinions and no two will be alike. Many will not have, be reluctant to answer  or will not be able to offer any opinion at all This is because. ...
A. It is your decision alone
B. They don't want to be the one to blame if they tell you the wrong thing.

When it comes to brain cancer we need to remember a few key facts.

1. Anything that ends in "oma" is cancer period... I am not going to debate you on it..that is just what it means, you may not like hearing that but that is the way it is.

2. There are only a few types of brain tumors that are truly benign. I feel many doctors use this term too lightly and often incorrectly to classify a slow growing tumor as being benign. The WHO even classifies some slow growing tumors as being benign.  It sounds good but face it, if it is growing at all in size no matter how slow it is not a good thing and growing cells mean cancer...(see 1)  The brain is an enclosed area...start pushing things around and you are going to lose functionality someplace because nerves will get compressed.

3. The only way to get tumor cells out of the brain once they have started to grow is to SURGICALLY remove them...they don't magically disapear and they are not expelled through the body. If you can't have surgery you have to find a way to stop the thing from growing in size exponentially or you are in trouble.

4. Cancer cells grow and reproduce exponentially and keep growing...normal cells stop reproducing after about 50 cycles. If you take nothing else away from this document you need to understand this. Killing one, just one cell prevents virtually billions from growing!!! Think about it. One thing that just really blows my mind is the sit and watch and wait approach that is taken. In reality you are watching for "symptoms" and then treating them as they come along instead of treating the cancer. Meanwhile..more cells appear...and they have the chance to divide exponentially also. This may not be popular but I believe in constant treatment be it alternative or what to not give the cancer cells a chance to grow. If you stop treatment they begin to grow again.

5. Even after surgery, chemo and radiation there are still on the average 100,000+ cancer cells that remain. There can be between a million and a billion cells in one quarter of an inch of tissue. In a 3 cm tumor that is several billion.

6. Again the brain is a small tightly enclosed area...there is very little room for anything else....the key to surviving a brain tumor is to stop (slow) the growth and keep the tumor as small as possible. As the tumor grows nerves get compressed and functionality is lost. Further as cells die they often swell and can cause other good cells around then to be compressed and die.The idea of course is to kill the cells as fast as possible so that there are not too many of them in there to die. This is another reason why the watch and wait theory just doesnt sit too well with me.

The Pro's of choosing alternative therapy

1. Depending on the type of alternative therapy most are non toxic and designed to help boost the immune system in some way. Most chemo treatments on the other hand are toxic to the body and tend to destroy the immune system.

2.  Most alternative drugs are made from plant extracts. So are quite a few chemo drugs.

3.  Some alternative drugs while unproven in clinical trials have glioma or tumor cell killing properties. St. Johns Wort (Hypericin which a potent form of is now in trial in fact) comes to mind.

4. Naturopathic healing like reiki, accupuncture and the like, while they do not have any effect whatsoever on the cancer cells allow the patient to come to terms with their illness and help teach them on how to control the symptoms. I see no harm in this type of therapy either.  Reiki is founded on the belief that healing cannot begin until the disease is accepted for what it is. The unfortunate part of cancer is that many people tend to deny what it really is and believe that what happens to others is not going to or could not happen to them. Unfortunately the truth is cancer does not discriminate against anyone.

5. There is still no known cure for cancer therefore any decision you make be it alternative or medical, as long as you are comfortable with it is not wrong.

The Cons

1. Without surgery to remove the dead tumor cells, even if the alternative therapy is killing them, you are in for problems. If your tumor is inoperable it makes a good case on to side with alternative nontoxic treatment.

2. Most types of alternative therapy are unproven...some cost exhorbitant amounts and make false claims.  While it is illegal in the US for this to be done it is not in some other countries. The WWW is truly worldwide and there are a lot of unethical alternative treatments out there that are nothing but a scam to prey on the desperate. You need to be forever cautious for this reason when pursuing alternative therapy and if not careful can get taken. It is important to remember that if there truly were a cure for cancer, it would not be kept "secret" as these mongers claim and a lot more people would be alive.  Most of these treatments have no proof to their claims only stories.

3. The methods that the medical field has come up with to deliver chemo drugs directly to the brain have greatly improved...very few drugs even cross the blood, brain barrier to get to the tumor, including some of the current chemo treatments. But with the new drugs to help open the bbb temporarily for the chemo to get through your chances of longer term survival are increased.  I know of only a few alternative drugs that do this.

4. Radiation kills a phenomonal amount of cells in a short period of time and reduces the size of the tumor very quickly.  No alternative treatment can claim that. Most claim that radiation has terrible long term effects and could cause tumors elsewhere in the body.  We should be so expound on this radiation effects like this are usually not seen for several years sometimes 10 to 20 years. I need not tell you what the life expectancy prognosis for most brain tumors is.  Bottom probably dont have to worry about it. Of course radiation on very young children is NEVER good and usually not reccomended but done as a last resort in  most cases anyways.

5. There is still no known cure for cancer therefore any decision you make be it alternative or medical, as long as you are comfortable with it is not wrong.

I could go on for pages and pages with this debate giving you reasons why both are good.  Instead I am going to suggest that what really needs to happen is that the medical field as a whole needs to be more open to the idea of alternative therapy in CONJUNCTION with specified therapy.  This is the path I took with my daughter and the one that many people do elect to take unfortunately AGAINST their doctors wishes. Why can't we give vitamins or St. Johns Wort or some other immune system boosting alternative drug along with chemo? (thats a whole another discussion I know...some alternative drugs supposedly have ill effects when taken with chemo yada yada yada) I kind of challenge that, because if they refuse to test alternative treatments along with suggested treatments  in trials on people how can they even attempt to make those claims? The truth, they can't, thus the debate will continue to go on.

We only need to go to number 5 on both the pro's and con's columns above. Being comfortable with your choice of treatment and knowing that you have done what you thought to be in your own or your childs best interest. If you have done this, no one in their right mind can take fault with you.

This document will be soon posted when I get around to it as

Flames, comments, criticism and kudos to:

Jim Kenzig
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