While I don't have any direct experience with it (or cancer, happily), it appears to be a fairly well-respected medical facility. It's been commended by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons, which sounds like a pretty good thing.
They've also got a nice linear accelerator on-site for use in radiation therapy. And linear accelerators are cool. Plus, you know, they save lives.
So the cancer center seems to be a pretty good place. Which is what makes their apparent embrace of pseudoscientific bullshit "therapies" so disturbing.
The Sentinel has an article about the cancer center's "Evening of Wellness." I'll quote from it in a moment, but let me just start by saying that whenever someone talks to you about "wellness" it means they're bullshitting you.
The Fitchburg cancer center offered some types of complimentary [sic] care through a 2007 grant, such as music and art.What a second. So "traditional Eastern therapies" basically equals "ancient Chinese medicine," but "traditional medical care" equals scientifically sound and evidence-based modern medical treatments? Man, we're playing fast and loose with the word "traditional!"
HealthAlliance CEO and President Patrick Muldoon announced Thursday night at the center's "Evening of Wellness" that a new donation will help the hospital integrate even more complementary care.
Complementary care refers to art, music, exercise and traditional Eastern therapies in conjunction with traditional medical care administered to cancer patients.
No matter... Music and art are great things. They can undoubtedly improve the lives of people with cancer. I don't think anyone has a problem with them being offered. Same goes for exercise. That's just obvious.
"[T]raditional Eastern therapies," on the other hand, are total and utter crap. Neither "traditional" nor "Eastern" is something you should be looking for in your medical care (and yes, the "traditional" term used above to refer to evidence-based medicine is inappropriate).
The current life expectancy in China (where a huge amount of this "traditional" crap comes from) is 73.18 years, and that's with modern medicine. In the US, it's 78.14 years. Yes, please take five years off my life with your dumbass therapies, China!
Of course, at the time most of these "therapies" were made up (and "made up" is the correct way to refer to their creation), the life expectancy was probably closer to 30 or 35. So we're really talking about 40-45 years lower. But why split hairs?
Let's look at a couple of the "complementary" therapies used here. First, a quote:
[Patient Barbara] Patterson also utilized the center's LeBed [sic] exercise program to increase patient's physical strength and immune systems. The therapeutic exercise focuses on movement and dance for women with breast cancer.Hmmm...
"I was just coming out of treatment," she said. "It (exercise programs) opens your lymphatic glands and gets you moving. A lot of breast cancer patients can develop lymphedema."
I wasn't familiar with the Lebed program, but here's its website. I recommend you watch the video on the front page. As you can see, it appears to be a low-impact dance program. Which may or may not involve blowing bubbles.
Now, Ms. Patterson is right. Lymphedema can be caused by radiation therapy. Furthermore, light exercise is a pretty decent treatment. So we're all good.
But what's this crap about "increas[ing]... immune systems"? I assume it's the reporter's own little touch, since as far as I can tell not even the Lebed people make that claim. They do say it increases "femininity" right after saying it was designed "for women and men," which is a little strange.
Incidentally, much like talking about "wellness," anyone talking about "strengthening the immune system" is at least 99% likely to be bullshitting you.
Anyway, while the Lebed method seems a little odd, I have no problem with it. Hell, it's just a dance class. It even has at least one study (pdf) on it published in a peer-reviewed journal! Sure, it's not a very well-done study (they do admit to some of the limitations in the study itself), but it does suggest that the program has some quality-of-life benefits, even if the actual medical benefits are not well-proven. So again, no worries!
Man, what am I so annoyed about then?
Oh yeah, this:
Dr. Betsy Burbank , who will offer acupuncture to patients at the center in the fall, was the night's guest speaker.Umm, way to throw out the "wellness" bullshit along with making a totally idiotic claim that "science is just catching up"! And offering acupuncture on top of it!
"Science is just catching with what you already know deep in your bones," Burbank said to gathered patients. "You know these (alternative programs) help your wellness."
Dr. Burbank, believe it or not, actually is a real doctor. Not an oncologist, mind you, but a family doctor. Which is fine, and no doubt more than qualifies her to perform acupuncture.
On the other hand, I'm about equally qualified to perform acupuncture. Though you may want to give me a chart of where the major nerves are, just so I don't hit anything bad. But seeing as how "real" acupuncturists and people just faking it and inserting needles randomly are equally effective, I think I could do just fine. And since it's not like you actually need a medical license to do it, I think I'm plenty qualified!
Acupuncture is bullshit. It's a big fat placebo, nothing more.
"So what?" you might ask. After all, placebos are powerful things. People do sometimes feel better from them. So what's the harm?
Well, there's actually significant harm. Hopefully it doesn't affect anyone actually being treated at the cancer center. After all, they're getting real medical care in addition to the useless crap.
But offering and, more importantly, promoting the totally absurd practice of acupuncture is a problem for several reasons:
- It diverts resources from actual medicine: For every penny spent on acupuncture and its pseudoscientific brethren, that's one less penny spent on curing cancer. Go ahead, ask me which I think is more important...
- It gives the impression that acupuncture is a valid therapy for cancer: It is not. People at the cancer center get real treatments with real medicines and techniques that have been proven to work. But people not at the cancer center may get the impression that they can go to their local quack acupuncturist, save a few bucks, and treat their cancer cheaply. And die of cancer, because acupuncture doesn't fucking do anything.
- It promotes a lie: Simple morality should suggest that a hospital promoting quackery is not a good thing to do.
And it gets worse:
Several patients traveled the corridors of cancer center, watching demonstrations of complementary care, including Reiki and Massage Therapy.Reiki? Seriously, Reiki? That makes acupuncture look like hardcore science!
Don't know about Reiki? Let me put it in a nutshell for you.
Step 1: Maybe put on some soothing music or something.
Step 2: Wave your hands around on and over somebody's body.
Step 3: Claim you're moving their aura or "energy field" around.
Step 4: Maybe get a placebo effect if you're lucky.
Whoopdy-doo! That's Reiki. One of the most inane and ridiculous of all the pseudoscientific gibberish out there. So bad I don't even really feel the need to debunk it. If its idiocy isn't obvious to you, you're probably not reading this.
As for massage therapy... well, who doesn't like a good massage? It's not going to cure your cancer, but no doubt it feels quite nice.
Look, cancer center people. I know you mean well, and probably think what you're doing is noble. In general, it actually is pretty noble. But not the alternative medicine shit! It's exploiting the gullibility of people who are already suffering enough, dammit.
There are a lot of things you can do to improve the lives of cancer patients. The arts and exercise classes are good, why not expand them? I'm sure they could always be better. You don't need stupid "therapies" like acupuncture and Reiki (and who knows what else!) that purport to help without actually doing a damn thing. Your doctors deserve the credit when they heal someone, but at least a few people are going to walk away truly thinking that these placebo therapies actually cured them. Not because they did, but because these lies have a nasty tendency of fooling people. Even doctors, apparently.
You're better than that, cancer center. Ditch the pseudoscientific nonsense and just work on helping people with cancer!