Hard to watch patients succumb to the ‘secret powers’ of alternative therapy

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Jess Ainscough’s tragic death is all too familiar for oncologists. We’ve all lost patients to the ‘secret powers’ of alternative therapy

(The Guardian/ Dr. Ranjana Srivastava) — The consultation is over and I stand to escort her out. Through the open door, I notice the waiting row of patients staring drearily at the television.

“But I am not done yet,” my patient says plaintively. “I still have questions.”

She’s already extended a 30-minute consult and I’m pushed for time. From her purse, she unfurls a long list. With its different colours, arrows and flags it looks like a complicated transit map.

Electron therapy, radio waves, magnetic energy and light boxes as a cure for cancer have been consistently refuted by influential cancer organisations, including the American Cancer Society and Cancer Council Australia.

“Should I have my intravenous vitamins on the day of chemo or after it?”

I don’t have a chance to answer before she continues: “Can you move my chemo appointment to fit in a colon cleanse? They are really busy, you know. Booked out weeks in advance.”

It almost comes across as boasting and I feel mildly irritated.

“And my friend is having magnet therapy,” she continues. “She is nearly cured though the traditional doctors gave up on her.” (…)

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