Criscilla Anderson, wife of country singer Coffey Anderson, calls her friendship with Julie Bennett, fellow classroom mom, “a forever sisterhood.” Anderson, who has colon cancer says she and Bennett — fighting breast cancer — were “brought together by a nasty disease. Our bond has changed my life … Cancer doesn’t have any hold on us! We’re survivors, Julie!!!”
In February, the two friends sought alternative treatment in Spain and, since quarantine began, the two families have hunkered down together (Bennet has 4 children with husband, Chris, aRead More
pastor; the Andersons have 3) supporting each other in the event of a medical emergency. Now, as Bennett’s latest PET scan results reveal her breast cancer has spread to her lymph nodes,
she weighs traditional versus alternative cancer therapies, a move that many oncologists would call risky. A landmark study from Yale, has shown that alternative therapies result in “statistically significant” reductions in 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, as well as “borderline significantly poorer” survival rates for colorectal cancer.
Treatment Choice: A Crossroads
“Here’s the good news,” Bennett said, as she shared her health update in a Facebook video, “the cancer has not spread to my major organs. Whoop whoop! Not in the liver, the bones, the lungs,” she noted. “It is in the same place that they found in the biopsy, in my lymph nodes and a couple more places. I don’t like that.”
But she remained resolute before laying out her doctor’s treatment plan: “The doctors want an extremely aggressive approach: A couple of big surgeries up front. The most aggressive form of chemo you can do, I think they call it the Red Devil — a terrible name — radiation, certain shots, and another surgery to get my ovaries taken out,” she explained. She also shared her PET scan results
View this post on Instagram
#ALLINITFORJULIEBENNETT RAFFLE 🎟🎟🎟🎟🎟🎟🎟🎟🎟 Our kids came up with an awesome idea to get me to Spain for my cancer treatment and some of our amazing friends are helping out. After Dr Hilu saw my pet scan he said I’m needing to get over to Spain within 3 weeks! It entails two weeks of different alternative treatments and specific supplements I need based on the specific blood test he does. ❌Don’t swipe left to see the prizes but check out my next post on my feed. #allinitforjuliebennett @juliebennett_ @beaubennett_ @nate_bennett_8 ______________________________________________________ For larger donations you can give through our nonprofit for a tax write-off. Email directly to [email protected]
with Dr. Raymond Hilu in Spain: “He saw my pet scan he said I’m needing to get over to Spain within 3 weeks! It entails two weeks of different alternative treatments and specific supplements I need based on the specific blood test
he does,” she wrote on Instagram. “But my hubby [Chris Bennett, a pastor] and I are on the same page that we are 100% going to go with Dr. Hilu in Spain.” Bennett’s children have mounted a raffle campaign to help fund their mother’s treatment, she said in a post on Instagram.
“After Dr Hilu saw my pet scan he said I’m needing to get over to Spain within 3 weeks! It entails two weeks of different alternative treatments and specific supplements I need based on the specific blood test he does,” she explained.
Alternative Therapies: “Vital That You Talk To Your Oncologist”
Alternative therapies can range from mind-body approaches, to supplements, healing crystals, Chinese medicine, or Ayurvedic medicine. They’re touted all over the internet, and they often sound too good to be true, says Dr. Jason Westin an oncologist and researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Dr. Westin has an important message: “A lot of information on the internet is not well-curated,” he says. “If there were treatment options that weren’t based on chemotherapies or targeted therapies that worked well for our patients, sign me up!”
Dr. Jason Westin, of MD Anderson Cancer Center says alternative cancer therapies have not undergone the rigorous clinical trials required for FDA approval.
But it’s for a good reason that these therapies aren’t used at comprehensive cancer centers: they haven’t proven themselves effective in clinical trials, which are rigorous studies that test treatments in the population of people they’re intended to treat. Clinical trials test new treatments for safety and efficacy; every drug or treatment approved for widespread use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to have gone through multiple phases of clinical trials.
“Many patients wonder, ‘are [doctors] hiding a treatment that might be good for us?’” Dr. Westin said, adding that the answer is, “Absolutely not.”
Dr. Westin explained that, if there were to be something out there that worked better than the proven treatment options that doctors usually use—such as chemotherapy or targeted therapies—researchers would be studying that something in clinical trials. “And we are studying it,” he said. In fact, there are thousands of clinical trials underway studying new and potentially better treatment options.
“Complementary therapies” may be beneficial, if used to support conventional medicine, but not as an alternative to traditional treatments. These options are part of a larger field known as integrative medicine. Many doctors support their patients’ use of integrative medicine — which may include treatments like acupuncture, meditation, or energy healing, so long as patients keep them in the loop and get their go-ahead before combining anything new with their treatment.
In 2018, researchers out of Yale University substantiated this through a study published in JAMA Oncology that found that patients who choose alternative therapies in the place of conventional medicine are twice as likely to die from their cancers. But unfortunately, a survey that same year found that nearly 40 percent of people believe that alternative therapies alone—such as vitamins, minerals, or diet—can cure cancer.
For patients considering alternative therapies, it’s absolutely vital that you talk to your doctor first. Your oncologists—who know the specifics of your cancer and the way the treatments you’re taking work—are the only ones who will be able to tell you whether that “cancer-curing” supplement is going to interact negatively with your prescribed treatment.
That’s why Dr. Westin is adamant: “Make sure if you’re finding information the internet about something that sounds too good to be true, talk to your doctor about it,” he said, adding that, in addition to not being effective, these therapies can often cost a lot of money.