Cancer and the Internet: A Word of Warning and Awareness

20 Jan

The internet is an infinite fount of information. I question whether we are as objective as we should be when reading what we are spoon-fed.

Just recently, two articles on pancreatic cancer appeared on the BBC’s website. The first article is so far from my own experience. Written by Rob Hicks[13], here’s the link:

It covers the causes of cancer, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. For example:

–          Causes of Cancer: seven reasons are cited as to why people get pancreatic cancer. I can’t identify with any of them except, perhaps, the inherited tendency towards cancer – which accounts for 10% of cases. Both my parents had cancer; I inherited the BRCA2 gene.

–          Symptoms: nine symptoms are listed. I didn’t have any of them!

–          Diagnosis: this paragraph, at least, speaks a little more to me. I had an EUS (endoluminal ulatrasound), blood tests for markers (CA 19.9) and a laparoscopy (is that the same as a laparotomy?).

–          Treatment:  the drug gemcitabine is recommended. This is the standard treatment of our own Ministry of Health. It was my initial treatment until my chance introduction to Dr William Isacoff, the UCLA  pancreatic cancer specialist[14]. He told me to stop gemcitabine immediately – and I started using his cocktail instead.

The second article, written by the BBC’s Health reporter, James Gallagher, claims that processed meat is linked to pancreatic cancer and recommends that people eat less red meat. However, it does acknowledge that “the jury is still out as to whether meat is a definite risk factor for pancreatic cancer, but processed meat may be playing a role.” Here’s the link:

It’s now one year since I’ve been on the Ketogenic diet. I haven’t deviated from it since. As you might know, the diet is carbohydrate free, sugarless and without fruit. But it may be the most fruitful thing I’ve ever done – even life-saving. I eat meat almost every day, sometimes twice a day – but never processed meat – as well as lots of chicken, fish, eggs, cheeses and most vegetables. The problem is how to prove that the diet is indeed effective; even using myself as a case-study. I’m still having chemo, still taking food supplements – and I had radio therapy before I started the diet. I know of no way I can prove which of these elements has helped me most.  And scientific evidence can’t be called on either.

I try to keep abreast of the latest research but there is very little, if anything, on the benefit of diet. Pharmaceutical companies, who spend massive amounts on medical research, have a vested interest in developing new drugs and, as far as I’m aware, have no interest in anyone’s diet.

Then there’s the endless flow of internet articles, like the two above – reader beware!

I’ll go further than that. From the moment anyone you know is diagnosed with cancer, tell that person to stay away from the internet. It’s his first step to keep his sanity. No individual is a statistic yet the statistics he’ll see on the internet will almost certainly set him back dramatically. Take it from me. You see the odds stacked massively against you. Nowhere have I read that you could prove the statistics wrong. They don’t even put you up for the challenge.

I remember, shortly after being diagnosed, how I had a peek at “pancreatic” in the internet…just to give myself a bit of background knowledge. The statistics smacked me in the eye. It was a bit like hearing that the brother of someone at work – a work colleague that you really don’t know that well – well, the brother’s son was killed in a car crash. Too real to deny – but too far to feel personally involved. And what do you do with the information? Confronted with the statistics I felt a physical feeling arouse somewhere in the depths of my stomach. It rolled around for a while, till the vile of bile rushed upward through my oesophagus toward my brain. My brain was struggling with the statistics too. My mental and physical feelings met near my tear glands – and released them. I cried. And cried and cried. Why didn’t someone warn me?

A year on, the internet is the least of my problems – I can even blog about it! And write now what I realised a year ago. Save the innocent from the internet.


[13] Dr Rob Hicks qualified at St Mary’s Hospital,London, and entered general practice in 1992. He’s a part-time GP and a hospital clinical assistant in sexual health medicine. His special interests are men’s, women’s and children’s health, complementary therapies, nutrition and health promotion.

[14] Refer to my blog “Paying it Forward” published 28 November, 2011

One Response to “Cancer and the Internet: A Word of Warning and Awareness”

  1. Sara January 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    You continue to be an inspiration to all. Never loose sight of the individual And.lets agree to take notice of statistics only when we likr what they are trying to prove 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: