Conventional cancer care presently has five accepted therapeutic strategies: Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy. Over the decades, progressing technology and research has led to improvements in each of these cancer therapy modalities. As a result, the 10-year cancer survival rate had increased from 25% in 1970 to 50% in 2010, and continues to rise. However, worldwide cancer cases and cancer deaths are rising, probably due – in part – to increasing life expectancy, but majorly because of an accumulating chronic disease burden from many factors, including:
- Medical conditions such as chronic infection, obesity, or diabetes mellitus
- Poor lifestyle choices such as smoking cigarettes, physical inactivity or over-consumption of alcohol or calorie-dense foods
- Exposure to toxins, antibiotics or hormones found in water and food
- Exposure to carcinogenic environmental pollutants or radiation
- Prior cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy and radiotherapy, that induces secondary cancers
Treatment-related new cancer cases happen in about 6-10% of the patients, depending on cancer type and follow-up duration. This would mean that between 1 to 1.8 million of the 18 million new cancer cases in 2018 were caused by prior cancer treatments, reflecting an apparent flaw in the present cancer treatment strategy.
A late manifestation of the cancer disease is the appearance of visible tumours, which are caused by abnormal cancerous cell growth in a specific tissue often resulting in enlargement. Removing or killing such localized tumours by surgical excision or radiation is commonly believed to cure the cancer. However, this viewpoint is incomplete and probably one of the reasons for the high failure rate in conventional cancer care. The visible tumour is only the end-result (one symptom) of an underlying cancer disease. Therefore, treating the tumour locally is merely treating the symptom of a much more complex disease. For instance, all too often, a surgeon would tell the patient, … “we got it all out” …, and the patient considers him/herself as cured. But tumour recurrence happens in about 30-50% of the patients after ‘successful surgical removal’ of the primary tumour. After all, the disease has never been addressed properly; only the symptom (i.e. the visible tumour) was treated.
With this in mind, let us proceed to understand the capabilities and limitations of each of the conventional cancer therapies today; namely, what they can and cannot do.