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Making a Decision Can Be Challenging

It is very important to understand that the cancer clinics discussed in The Moss Report sometimes use methods that are not practiced by standard or academic medicine. Therefore, if you were to share a description of these clinics with a conventional oncologist, you might hear how their treatment protocols are not recommended by medical authorities. This is often true and that fact must be taken into account. But remember, most of these clinics exist precisely to administer methods that are not in standard use! Presumably, that is the very reason you are looking into them.

Given that, some patients try to “square the circle.” They yearn for treatments other than what is being offered by standard academic oncology but they become rattled when their conventional doctor rejects those unconventional treatments! Ultimately, of course, you will have to make your own decisions. If you are only comfortable with conventional care, you probably should not consider a CAM clinic, at home or abroad.

Integration of Conventional and CAM

True integration of conventional and CAM treatments would be the best course, but it is rarely available. Usually one runs into contradictions when trying to combine the two. To be frank, most of the resistance to this integration comes from the conventional side. And board-certified oncologists, overwhelmingly, control the provision of medicine in the U.S., Canada, the E.U., and most of the world.

Yet every year, thousands of cancer patients seek treatment at innovative clinics, often located at a considerable distance from their homes. Some are seeking experimental treatments at conventional medical centers. And some travel to take part in clinical trials; while others are looking for doctors, clinics, or hospitals that integrate the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into conventional oncology.

Clinic Visits

We made our first visit to a CAM cancer clinic in 1976, when we took a break from a big biology meeting in Anaheim, California. We visited the notorious clinic of Ernesto Contreras, MD, Sr. in Tijuana, Mexico. (It is now the Oasis of Hope hospital). We have been fascinated with the clinic phenomenon ever since. RWM and his staff have made 19 separate trips to German-speaking countries, and countless trips to Mexico, China, and many other countries to further understand their unique approaches to cancer. At the Moss Report, we discuss the most interesting clinics that we have visited around the world.

Interpreting Usefulness

Interpreting the actual usefulness or viability of these CAM centers presents particular challenges.

  • Cancer patients are understandably anxious to receive treatments that will provide substantial benefits.
  • But cancer treatments, especially for advanced or heavily-pretreated diseases, are always uncertain in their outcome.
  • There is a possibility of financial exploitation in this particular variety of medicine. This sort of exploitation affects only a minority of clinics but it damages the reputation of the remainder of honest clinics.

All this adds up to considerable uncertainty about where to go and what to do, with the potential for increased burdens (financial, emotional, and otherwise) on families already struggling with a complex and difficult disease. Traveling abroad for innovative treatment is not for everyone!

Making Choices

In making treatment choices, time is usually of the essence. Cancer patients and their loved ones often must make important decisions quickly, and under intense pressure from doctors, hospitals, family members, and other well-wishers. Should you seek treatment at a CAM cancer clinic, either in the U.S. or abroad? That is the question that often confronts people with cancer. It is equally important to perform one’s “due diligence,” to make sure that you are not reacting to a clinic’s promises in haste or out of desperation. It has been our privilege to help people make these sorts of decisions via phone consultations over the past several decades. But in the end, the decision is a personal one, based on data but also one’s instinctual feeling about the entire situation.

Considerations

We will try to sort out some of the known and unknown factors and help you decide whether to seek treatment at a CAM-oriented clinic and, if so, which clinics to seriously consider. One problem is that much of what you read on the Internet or via mass-market pamphlets or books are either openly or covertly promotional. Oftentimes, the commercial nature of this publicity is hidden under the guise of objective reporting. Nonetheless, their aim may be to tempt you to go to one or another of these clinics or to use particular products.

Claims made in this way are not necessarily false, but they almost always give a distorted or one-sided picture of the methods and qualifications of the practitioners. To compound the problem, the writings of so-called ‘quack busters,’ whom you may run across on the Internet, suffer from a similar problem, but in reverse. (As often happens in life, one extreme position winds up reinforcing its mirror image.) Typically, these self-proclaimed “CAM skeptics” have nothing critical to say about the conventional practice of oncology, such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. But they confidently dispute the very existence of any meaningful alternatives and then select facts that fit their prejudices and preconceptions.

Changes and Discoveries

Also, this field changes constantly and there are always new facets to be discovered. Hardly a day goes by without us learning about some new treatment. Any individual’s ability to judge such a largely unexplored branch of scholarship is therefore necessarily limited. There is also inevitably some degree of subjectivity in judgments of clinics and doctors, especially foreign ones.

If we have had a bad experience at a clinic, we tend to think that our readers will as well. Conversely, if clinics roll out the red carpet for me, as they sometimes do, we have to resist the temptation to think that clients also will be treated well. That is why our impressions of clinics—positive and negative—are tempered by the actual experiences that clients have shared with us over the decades.

Based on all of this, in our writings on particular clinics, we give you our best judgment based on almost 50 years of experience and dozens of exploratory site visits both in the U.S. and abroad. We hope it will prove useful in narrowing your search for a clinic that can truly help you in your current situation.

See our Practitioner Map to find a clinic, hospital, or caregiver near you.

Read about Choosing a Clinic.