Don’t buy the alternative medicine cancer cure testimonials

Orac, that defender of all things good, has yet another excellent post about how quackery gets peddled. In this case, some of the promotion is done by the very people who will get hurt by it:

[M]any breast cancer cure testimonials involve either lesions that are not cancer, lesions where it’s unclear whether the cancer has changed, or, most commonly, stories in which the cancer has been removed surgically and the woman refuses adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy, such as Suzanne Somers’ or Hollie Quinn’s breast cancer cure testimonial. In these latter forms of breast cancer cure testimonials, it was the surgery that cured the cancer, but naturally the woo-prone, having refused the adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation that decrease the chance of the cancer coming back, decide that it was the woo du jour that they chose that actually saved them.

The post goes on to talk about a woman by the name Inger Hartelius who, after being diagnosed with cancer, was given a book by our old friend Andreas Moritz. Through that book and a desire to seek out alternative ‘help’, Hartelius found some other quack by the name of Robert O. Young. I’ve never heard of the guy before, but he apparently believes that acid is the root of all cancer. It isn’t and he is a quack. Unfortunately, Hartelius was able to find Young; now she has a testimonial:

My health is now much better than it was before, I sleep at night, my weight is stable, my lung capacity has grown – I feel so much more alive – which is hard to explain. I have no signs that I’m sick with cancer and now I know I am not going to die of this cancer.

I’m just going to point out what Orac points out in his post: She never says anything objective about her tumor. She doesn’t tell us if it has shrunk, if it is stable, if it has grown. She doesn’t tell us if it was removed during the biopsy, as is sometimes the case. She doesn’t tell us anything other than that she feels better. And that’s often how these testimonials go. We are given little information much of the time, and when we are given better details, it is often forgotten to attribute progress properly. For instance, some people will undergo surgery but forgo chemotherapy and radiation therapy, instead opting for some line of quackery. When they get lucky and their cancer doesn’t return (or when they give their testimonial prior to its return), they attribute their progress to whatever quack treatment they’ve been receiving. The reality is that the surgery is what got them to a better state of health. The alternative medicine just cost them more money.

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Bill O’Reilly is a hack and a liar

I was going to title this post “Bill O’Reilly is an idiot and a liar”, but I like to be careful with who I call stupid. Sarah Palin is a moron. Jack Hudson is genuinely dumb. But Billo? I think he’s a hack and his zone is nothing if not spin, but I don’t think he’s stupid. In fact, he seems to be a fairly smart guy with pretty decent wit. It’s just too bad he’s also a liar sometimes.

I don’t make it a habit to watch The Factor, but I did catch a couple of minutes of it tonight. The guest was some sort of body language expert who was analyzing the President and Romney from the most recent debate. When she got to the part where Romney stepped into a trap that was half his own doing, claiming the President never called the embassy assault an “act of terror”, Billo had two big points to make. First, he said he thought Romney won that exchange. Seriously. He actually thinks Romney didn’t look like a complete fool. If that isn’t hackery, I don’t know what is. Second, he said he had already debunked on a previous show the notion that the President used the phrase “act of terror”. Let’s go to the tape:

The knockout punch begins at the 57 second mark.

Now, there is plenty of room for discussion here. As moderator Candy Crowley noted, and as Romney was attempting to say, this recent attack was not labeled terrorism is any meaningful sense until weeks after it occurred. Mixed messages were sent and I suspect there are two good reasons why. First, it’s politically inconvenient for a president to say terrorists successfully attacked us, especially right before an election. Second, intelligence information takes time to stream in and it gets updated frequently early on. This was probably exasperated by the fact that the FBI was unable to get into Libya for some time. (Hell, CNN reporters are the ones who waltzed in to find Ambassador Chris Stevens’ private journal.) So, sure, a real discussion can be had over all this, but that doesn’t change the fact that the President called this an “act of terror” the following day, Mitt Romney did not know that fact, and this exchange constituted one of the highlights of the debate because the former governor was flummoxed and fact-checked on the spot.

Next thing you know, these Republicans are going to start saying Jim Lehrer did a good job, Martha Raddatz was the worst moderator ever, Paul Ryan either tied or won his debate, and Candy Crowley pandered too much to women by asking topical questions…