THE VALIDITY OF ESSIAC AS A CURE FOR BREAST CANCER


Georgia Wainger






Outline: click on a topic to go to that section

BREAST CANCER
THE SEVEN MOST COMMONLY USED, MEDICALLY ADVANCED PROCEDURES FOR ERADICATING BREAST CANCER
HISTORY OF THE HERBAL REMEDY ESSIAC
THE INGREDIENTS IN THE HERBAL REMEDY ESSIAC
A DESCRIPTION OF THE HERBAL REMEDY ESSIAC
THE NEED FOR HERBAL REMEDIES INCLUDING ESSIAC
ARE HERBAL REMEDIES, INCLUDING ESSIAC, SAFE MEANS FOR COMBATING BREAST CANCER?
REFERENCES




BREAST CANCER

Doctors continue to study breast cancer, one of the leading causes of death in women, in attempt to find an all out cure. More and more women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. In 1995, an estimated 182,000 women in the United States were diagnosed, of which 10% to 15% were already locoregionally advanced (Ames et al, 1996). Breast cancer has been plaguing women since 1600 B.C. where it was treated with such methods as amputation or by burning the lesion (Eberlein, 1994). A variety of supposed panaceas have been proposed as cures, however, the most modern technology and research has identified three main modalities in the treatment of cancer: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These modalities are most advantageous in ridding the body of cancer and prolonging life as noted in key research studies.

THE SEVEN MOST COMMONLY USED, MEDICALLY ADVANCED PROCEDURES FOR ERADICATING BREAST CANCER

While doctors do not completely disregard homeopathic cures as cancer treatments, due to the cell's high rate of metastasis, time is most definitely of the essence. Numerous medical journal studies have alluded to seven specific procedures for combating a neoplasm of the breast. The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center backs up this assertion and explains the procedures on their home page at (http://www.jhbmc.jhu.edu/opa/cancer.html). Of the seven treatments, a MODIFIED RADIAL MASTECTOMY is the most prevalent treatment of early identified breast cancer and the most favored by physicians. This procedure includes the full removal of the breast, underarm lymph nodes and the lining of the chest muscles. Seldom used today, but a common procedure of the past, a RADICAL MASTECTOMY was also an option recommended for women, entailing a removal of the entire breast, chest muscles, all underarm lymph nodes, and additional fat and skin. The TOTAL and SIMPLE MASTECTOMIES, yet another scientifically worthwhile option in the fight against breast cancer, involve the removal of only the breast, and sometimes a removal of a few underarm lymph nodes closest to the breast to check if the cancer has begun to spread to other parts of the woman's body. PARTIAL and SEGMENTAL MASTECTOMIES remove the malignant tumor as well as a wedge of normal tissue surrounding the tumor, including some skin and the lining of the chest muscle below the tumor, again checking for metastasis. Slightly newer, more advanced treatments involve directly targeting the cancerous tumor, including extra prophylactic measures. A LUMPECTOMY involves the removal of only the breast lump, followed by routine radiation and therapy. RADIATION THERAPY uses high energy rays to damage cancer cells to keep them from growing. CHEMOTHERAPY and HORMONE THERAPY work in ways similar to Radiation therapy. Chemotherapy uses various drugs to kill the cancer cells, while radiation therapy keeps the cancer cells from receiving the hormones they need in order to grow.

Research has shown that while neither surgery nor radiation work well alone, together they combat cancer with alarming success. In a 1996 review article in Surgical Clinics of North America, researchers examine four studies citing the benefits of surgery and radiation used both alone and together. Two studies performed at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on locally advanced breast cancer show a 27%-29% ten year disease-free survival rate in the 269 patients observed. The 85 patients who solely used surgery to treat breast cancer observed by the Columbia-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai Hospitals, also of New York, did not fare as well as even the small percentage of patients from Memorial Sloan-Kettering. There was no percentage of patients reaching the 10 year disease-free survival rate of the study at Columbia-Presbyterian, and only a 22% rate for those at Mount Sinai Hospital (Ames et al, 1996). The article went on to prove that radiation alone was equally as ineffective as surgery alone. Taking into account that the patients in the radiation-alone series had cancer that had progressed so far that it was inoperable, the statistics did not differ drastically from the sole surgery group, except that the local recurrence rates, 36% to 72%, were in fact higher in the radiation only group. Throughout the seven year span of 1976-1983, the five year disease-free survival percentage ranged from 18% of the 184 patients at Guy's Hospital, to 28% of the 137 patients at the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy (Ames et al, 1996). By combining both surgery with radiation, the patient stands a greater chance for survival, as "irradiation effectively decreases the risk of breast tumor recurrence" (Donohue et al, 1994). As the journal article reviews both preoperative and postoperative radiation in eight studies from 1949-1985, the range spreads drastically, with greater and greater success rates the later in the century the study began.

A 1976 Preoperative Radiation study conducted by Zucali et al at the Instituto Nazionale showed a 45% five year survival rate for the 133 patients observed. Postoperative Radiation's success as documented by the 1985 Montague and Fletcher study at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, shows a 43.3% disease-free survival rate in the 132 patients observed.

The use of ADJUVANT, or INDUCTION THERAPY, came about in the 1970s, and combined with both surgery and radiation proves to be the most beneficial way to rid the body of breast cancer. The article concludes by stating that "successful multimodal regimens incorporating systemic treatment (chemotherapy or chemohormonal therapy) as well as local therapy (surgery and radiation) has significantly improved disease-free and overall survival as well as local-regional control" (Ames et al, 1996).

HISTORY OF THE HERBAL REMEDY ESSIAC

Herbal remedies have been around for centuries attempting to cure the ailments of the time. People have long believed in the healing capabilities of homemade herbal remedies as a more healthy, less expensive alternative to more conventional and/or medical treatments. The desires for health and well being cause the public to try a range of panaceas, no matter how far-fetched some cures may appear. Seeking a cure for her aunt's stomach and liver cancers, Rene Caisse, a nurse, heard of a herbal cure developed by an Objibwa Indian Medicine Man more than seventy years ago. This Medicine Man gave his remedy, an elixir consisting of four different herbs, to a woman dying of breast cancer. She supposedly recovered and saw no recurrence during her thirty years of remission. Upon hearing this, Caisse gives this elixir to her aunt who then lives for twenty-one more years despite her original terminal prognosis. With no clinical evidence supporting the validity of this elixir, known today as Essiac (Caisse spelled backwards), health care officials still debate over the relevance of Essiac as a cure for breast cancer . (http://www.hplus.com/hplus/a5.html).

THE INGREDIENTS IN THE HERBAL REMEDY ESSIAC

Essiac is not considered a drug, but a food, and therefore the FDA has not approved it as a "drug" to cure cancer. By combining 16 oz. of Powdered Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), 6 cups of Burdock Root (arctium lappa), 4 oz of Slippery elm innerbark (ulmus fulva) and 1 oz of Turkey Rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum), and taking the daily recommended dose of one ounce each evening, the patient's immune system should strengthen by "cleansing the blood which allows the blood to heal itself" (http://www.ibg.uu.se/elektromagnum/web/physics/KeelyNet/biology/essiac2.asc) (http://www.hplus.com/hplus/a5.html).

A DESCRIPTION OF THE HERBAL REMEDY ESSIAC

This remedy has been shown to be a benefit to cancer patients because it "supplies the body with secretion resistant to the onslaught of malignant cells" (http://cyberline.com/herbs/essiac.htm). In typical cases of breast cancer, the malignancy will metastasize in one breast and then invade either the mammary gland or the auxilla, or both, of the other breast. Those promoting the use of Essiac as a cure for breast cancer claim that by ingesting the Essiac elixir, the growth resulting because of the primary malignancy will regress into the original growth. While this does, for a while increase the original mass, eventually the mass will soften and loosen and then can be removed without the danger of recurrence (http://cyberline.com/herbs/essiac.htm). In a double blind study performed using other herbal formulas, all proved to be inferior to Essiac (http://lablinks.com/sumeria/health/essiac2.html).

Patients have reported noticed benefits within the first few months of ingesting the nightly dosage of Essiac. Scientists and medical experts still don't know the true medical effects of Essiac. Since Caisse's death, doctors have failed faithfully to continue turning in patient reports to the government causing Resperin, Essiac's marketing company, to fall behind with its records thus slowing completion of statistical data (http://www.ibg.uu.se/elektromagnum/web/physics/KeelyNet/biology/essiac2.asc) http://www.ibg.uu.se/elektromagnum/web/physics/KeelyNet/biology/essiac2.asc). This lack of data, therefore, causes more difficult marketing for Resperin. Noting that Essiac is not the single panacea for all cancer victims is important, if in fact it works as a cure for one of them. As also noted in this article, the "danger of limiting oneself to one single formula to treat cancer is: there are many different forms of cancer and they affect the body and its systems in many different ways, (http://www.ibg.uu.se/elektromagnum/web/physics/KeelyNet/biology/essiac2.asc).

THE NEED FOR HERBAL REMEDIES INCLUDING ESSIAC

Although no scientific evidence exists claiming Essiac as a valid cure for cancer in and of itself, allegedly Essiac, like many other herbal remedies boost the immune system and enable the body to ward off and aid in the resistance to cancer more effectively (Fox, 1989). While Essiac may not be the sole herbal remedy needed to fight breast cancer, there is a need for more homeopathic, less medically draining therapies to aid the victims of breast cancer. While the combination of surgery with some sort of chemotherapy or chemohormonal therapy is medical sciences most advanced cancer treatment, these procedures have such extremely unpleasant side effects as nausea, vomiting and depression (Kaplan et al., 1993). As noted in a study (Fox, 1989), side effects such as depression may lower immune function, thus making the body more susceptible to various germs as well as having a lower chance of fighting off the cancer.

ARE HERBAL REMEDIES, INCLUDING ESSIAC, SAFE MEANS FOR COMBATING BREAST CANCER?

Used as a person's only mean of fighting breast cancer, it is generally not a good idea to use an herbal remedy, as medical science has proven numerous times the success rate of a combined surgery and radiation treatment. However, drinking Essiac while also undergoing a more medically advanced treatment, has not been proven to harm a person, while non-scientific literature has claimed its success. While herbal remedies may not fight off the cancer entirely, by increasing the strength of the immune system, a patient stands a better chance to ward off unwanted illnesses and diseases.




REFERENCES



Ames, F.C., Buzdar, A.U., Hortobagyi, G.N., et al (1996). Locally Advanced Noninflammatory Breast Cancer. Surgical Clinics of North America, 76, 393-409.

Breitmeyer, J.B., henderson, I.C. (1990). Adjuvant Chemotherapy of Breast Cancer. Surgical Clinics of North America, 70, 1081-1098.

Borgen, P.I., Sacchini, V., Swallow, C.J., et al (1996). Ductal Carcinoma in situ of the breast: Progress and Controversy. Current Problems in Surgery, 33, 553-600.

Donohue, J.H., Grado, G.L., Grant, S.C., et al (1994). Breast Conservation therapy for Invasive Breast Cancer: a Review of Prior trials and the Mayo Clinic Experience. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 69, 515-524.

Eberlin, T.J.(1994). Current Management of Carcinoma of the Breast. Annals of Surgery, 220, 121-136.

Fox, B.H. (1989). Depressive Symptoms and Risk of Cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association, 262, 1231.

Kaplan, R.M., Sallis Jr., J.F., Patterson, T.L. Health and Human Behavior . McGraw-Hill, 1993. San Francisco, 263.


 

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