Beware Unproven Diets & Treatments For Cancer
- TV host Johnnie Iriwin, husband and father of three, is battling stage four lung cancer which spread to his brain. He has treated it with chemotherapy.
- Iriwin was diagnosed in 2020 after experiencing blurred vision.
- The host raised concern among fans for weight loss, which may be due to an unproven diet he is pursing which attempts to “starve his tumor.”
- Experts say unproven, alternative treatments are deeply concerning as they can have terrible side effects, and without data to back them up, these treatments are often unfounded and play into the hopes and fears of patients in an unsafe and unethical manner.
- Bottom line: While a personal choice for cancer patients is always something to be respected, experts say do not choose alternate remedies over traditional treatments.
Irwin is known for his work on A Place in the Sun, a home improvement reality TV show in which property experts help British couples who want to move abroad. He’s also a father of three. Irwin lives in Newcastle, UK, with his wife and their children.
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Irwin’s Lung Cancer Battle
In November 2022, Iriwn revealed publicly that he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020 and that it had now spread to his brain. He has treated his cancer with chemotherapy and other cancer drugs, reports the Daily Mail. He was diagnosed after experiencing blurred vision.
The husband and father shared his diagnosis with Hello! magazine last year. He said, “I’m carrying a dirty secret – it’s become a monkey on my back. I don’t know how long I have left, but I try to stay positive and my attitude is that I’m living with cancer, not dying from it.”
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Irwin says, “I set little markers – things I want to be around for. I got into the habit of saying, ‘Don’t plan ahead because I might not be well enough.’ But now I want to make plans. I want to make memories and capture these moments with my family because the reality is, my boys are going to grow up not knowing their dad, and that breaks my heart.”
“Within a week of flying back from filming, I was being given six months to live,” Irwin recalls of his diagnosis. “I had to go home and tell my wife, who was looking after our babies, that she was on her own pretty much. That was devastating. All I could do was apologize to her. I felt so responsible.”
What Happens When You’ve Been Newly Diagnosed With Lung Cancer
Dangerous Diets During Cancer: Alternative Treatments & False Hope
Irwin recently met with the author of a diet book for cancer patients which promotes some form of starving tumors as a treatment. The author is a survivor of stage four cervical cancer.
Some fans were worried about the meeting, and felt concerned about Irwin’s health. On Instagram, Iriwn assured his followers he doesn’t intend to starve himself. Rather, he intends to follow a bespoke diet to try to starve his tumor. Irwin writes, “For those who are worried that I’m starving myself don’t worry. Im not. I’m trying to starve a tumour by blocking its feeding pathways, by taking ‘off label’ drugs as well as a tailored diet -losing weight is deffo not the aim ! Plus exercise and key supplements with the expert help of @how_to_starve_cancer x”
Experts say unproven, alternative treatments are deeply concerning as they can have terrible side effects, and without reproducible, well-studied data to back them up, these treatments are often unfounded and play into the hopes and fears of patients in an unsafe and unethical manner.
While a personal choice for cancer patients is always something to be respected, experts say do not choose alternate remedies over traditional treatments.
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Does Diet Matter For Cancer Patients?
Many people are curious about the link between cancer and diet. And people diagnosed with cancer may find themselves especially concerned with these questions. Marisa Gholson, a Physicians Assistant at Compass Oncology says in an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, “We get questions all the time about whether they should cut out dairy or sugar or soy. And basically what I tell patients is that you should eat a well-balanced diet.”
Gholson says, “There’s not great evidence that cutting out sugar or dairy or soy is going to slow down or reverse the growth of your cancer. So I think just making sure that you’re getting the nutrition that you need.”
She says that due to some cancer treatments, like chemo, some people may lose their appetite during their cancer journey. “One of the side effects of chemo can be a loss of appetite,” Gholson explains. “You can also taste changes. So when those side effects occur, I tell patients just to try and eat whatever tastes good and to supplement with nutritional shakes like Ensure or Boost, just to make sure that they’re getting the nutrition that they need to make it through treatment.”
“Everything in moderation,” she says.
Living with Cancer
Diet aside, facing a hugely challenging diagnosis, Irwin is continuing to live his best life, and cherish precious moments with his family, even amid a stage four cancer battle. In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Mona Robbins, a psychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, speaks to the topic of living with cancer. She says, “Concerns that I hear related to stressors associated with a cancer diagnosis are, number one, coming to terms with the diagnosis themselves.”
Dr. Robbins continues, “Another thing that I tend to see are the psychological concerns that we hear about, which may be depression or anxiety that comes about from just experiencing this and being overwhelmed, or perhaps having those symptoms come back because of pre-existing conditions in the past.”
She says she helps people to focus on the different roles they play throughout life. “I tell people that we have various identities,” says Dr. Robbins. “We are people. Some people are parents, they’re colleagues, co-workers, and spouses. But sometimes the identity of a patient becomes a priority.”
For people like Irwin, being a patient is now a priority, and that has an altering effect on the way life is lived. “And when [being a patient] takes precedent, all the other things start to fall away. So in my work with patients, I want to make sure that they also recognize who they are as they’re going through the treatment.”
“Our minds are so powerful,” Dr. Robbins adds. “Our thoughts affect how we feel, and in turn affect how we behave and what we do.”
Mind Over Cancer: How to Gain Greater Control Over Cancer
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