The celebrity cult of natural cancer treatments

To many, choosing natural cancer treatments is empowering. Steve Jobs notoriously rejected chemotherapy in favor of natural cures. Although there’s no way to successfully debate that chemo would have added years to his life, it appears natural therapies didn’t do the job either.

There’s no denying that choosing natural cancer treatments over chemotherapy assures quality of life in some cases. When you receive a terminal diagnosis, you may feel that the side effects of chemo come with few benefits. On the other hand, having extra time may feel equally important to some patients.

This is a polarizing debate that resurfaces from time-to-time. Most recently, a little-known Hollywood stunt double and former Miss Britain began a very public campaign to prioritise natural cancer treatments. Although that is her very admirable choice, the message she’s delivering is somewhat misleading.

Why choose natural cancer treatments at all?

It’s easy to see why natural cancer treatments are appealing. Some patients choose to reject chemotherapy as it comes with severe side effects. This can include hair loss, nausea, and fatigue. Although heading down the natural route doesn’t rid you of cancer’s side effects, you may feel as though a life with quality is better than a life with greater quantity.

However, that view isn’t universal. It’s understandable that some patients will prefer to have additional time with their loved ones instead. Some may find peace in having more time to arrange their affairs. Therefore, natural cancer treatments aren’t the answer for everyone. Much in the same way that chemotherapy isn’t.

Why do some medics become irritable at the mention of the word ‘natural’?

It’s not the idea of natural cancer treatments that medics find offensive. Although there are plenty of reasons to find the idea irritable (and no, ‘big pharma’ losing out isn’t one of them), usually two prevail. First, patients such as Kerri Parker who very publicly use their celebrity status to promote natural cancer treatments often don’t take a responsible approach. Second, there’s an automatic assumption that natural = better.

I’ll start with the lack of responsibility in celebrity-driven campaigns. Some of Kerri’s statements have alluded to the way her grandmother died with cancer rather than of it. While this is common in slow-growing diseases, it’s misleading to apply the progress of slow-growing cancer to one that’s more aggressive. Making references to battling pneumonia with a workout also minimizes the various stages of that particular disease, and is patronizing when placed in the context of your average everyday patient. Additionally, blanket statements such as “chemotherapy kills” can become harmful when someone blindly follows the advice of a person who doesn’t know the intricacies of their disease.

Then there’s the idea that natural = better. I’ll admit that the recent rise in antibiotic resistance does suggest we need to let our bodies work a little harder. However, if we were to let nature take its course with massive infections, high-risk births, and massive traumas, life expectancy would plummet.

In an ideal world, natural cancer treatments would do the job. However, some of the treatments these clinics supposedly provide are not safe in the later stages of cancer. Repeated enemas may result in dehydration. The inadequate nutrition that comes with adhering to Gerson Therapy could have a devastating impact on someone with a low immune system. Worryingly, some clinics claim they’ve already discovered anti-cancer vaccines that the medical world has been trying to shape for years. Of course, you must pay upwards of $40,000 to potentially access them.

As natural cancer treatments gather popularity in the West, chemotherapy is becoming less popular. When nature’s way is chosen as part of a personal and empowering decision designed to achieve better quality of life, it’s a decision worthy of praise. When you’re using your status to mislead others, that decision becomes dangerous.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.