THE CANCER SURVIVORS and How They Did It by Judith Glassman


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Case histories that purportedly illustrate the efficacy of ""alternative therapies""--and leave uncertainty and confusion in their wake. Reviewing the state-of-the-art in surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, Glassman concludes--on no particular authority--that ""to keep pursuing the conventional approaches may no longer offer significant gains."" The alternatives she examines are not especially far-out, though nearly all are dismissed by organized medicine and the American Cancer Society. Among the nutritional therapies: the Gerson diet, based on raw vegetables and detoxifying coffee enemas (Johnny Gunther's regimen, as reported by his father in Death Be Not Proud); laetrile (still the subject of raging controversy); vitamin C therapy (of which Linus Pauling is a major proponent). Also: the Hoxsey therapy--potassium iodide pills in combination with dietary measures--and the various immune therapies, the most orthodox of which is interferon. Most intriguing is Glassman's report on the mind-body connection, highlighting the work of the Simontons--who ""combine orthodox therapy with meditation, visualization, and psychotherapy."" Fighters with a positive attitude are more likely to be survivors, Grassman concludes; yet this is equally true of those who undergo conventional treatment. (She mentions but brushes aside Susan Sontag's rejection of emotional prototypes of cancer patients.) The basic difficulty with the book, though, is that Glassman doesn't have the expertise to sort out or evaluate these therapies; at its worst, her ambivalence leads to unbridled enthusiasm. (On biofeedback: ""eventually a cancer patient might learn to control tumor growth or proliferation as easily as a tense person can learn to relax."") For trustworthy coverage of alternative therapies, see instead Charles Simone's Cancer and Nutrition (below) and Edelhardt and Lindeman's Interferon (1981). The stories here are interesting, but offer nothing to rely on.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1983
Publisher: Dial