A young engineer walks in. A woman in her thirties. She has a small lump in her breast. The cancer Surgeon orders a mammogram. The radiologist with special interest in breast diseases calls and tells:
“She has a lump. A BIRAADS 5.”
Data from tens of thousands of patients have taught us enough to grade the shadows that we see in a mammogram or an ultrasound of the breast. BIRAADS1 can be ignored, while a BIRAADS 5 is highly suspicious. A needle core biopsy is indicated. The biopsy comes positive for cancer.
This will require surgery. A part of the breast needs to be removed. Radiotherapy may need to be given. Chemotherapy might have a role. We have to wait for the surgery and the pathology result on the removed specimen.
At this point, after days of deliberation, the patient and her parents decide on Homeopathy. They don’t want Modern Medicine.
“We understand that in India, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Sidha and Naturopathy are established and official systems of medicine. Each offers complete treatment for most diseases.”
That is true.
“Modern Medicine offers very invasive therapies. Is it possible that unpleasant side effects can happen? Can serious complications occur?”
Yes. Those can happen.
“Is cure guaranteed, if I go through these?”
No. It is absolutely NOT guaranteed.
As part of the Reconstructive team, I felt very foolish. Modern Medicine is a complex, inexact science. It can be amazingly effective, but not in all cases. Treatments can be expensive. Serious side effects and complications can occur.
But…There is a but.
In early cases like this, complete treatment can cure you. Seventy to ninety percent gets cured. But it is possible that one may fall in the unfortunate thirty percent. Side effects and complications are tolerable in most cases.
Ayush treatments in general offer risk free treatment. Are they effective?
Let us take Homeopathy, for example. We don’t know specifically, for breast cancer of this particular stage. But is it effective against any disease?
The key question is, is it more effective than Placebo, or a dummy treatment? Is it more effective than prayer, for example. Or coloured sugar water?
More than hundred placebo-controlled trials have been done to date. A meta-analysis, (a study compiling data from all previous studies) done by Linde, showed a very small benefit of Homeopathy over Placebo, for some diseases. But Linde himself says:
“If you include only the well conducted studies, Homeopathy and placebo has the same effect.”
There were many reviews after that. The one by Shang et al in 2005 is very final and authoritative. Homeopathy and Dummy treatments have the same effect.
Do we need more studies? “More research is needed”- a sad cliché.
Actually, we don’t. But in India, we are in a strong position to do them. A lot of funds are available for alternate systems. We should do well controlled studies and publish our results in high index journals, preferably international. They should give repeatable results, of course. And the benefits should be better than the best available in scientific medicine, or cheaper, safer and comparable.
Then the entire world will come and support our great alternative treatment systems. The drug mafia will race to manufacture and get our medicines into the market. The entire world will benefit.
Till then, I suspend judgement. I will continue to believe that alternate treatments are basically, not very effective. I will stick to Modern Medicine, with all its inadequacies and faults.
- Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, Jüni P, Dörig S, Sterne JA, Pewsner D, Egger M. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. The Lancet. 2005 Aug 27;366(9487):726-32.
- Ernst E, Pittler MH. Re-analysis of previous meta-analysis of clinical trials of homeopathy. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2000 Nov 1;53(11):1188.
- Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. British journal of clinical pharmacology. 2002 Dec;54(6):577-82.
- Linde K, Melchart D. Randomized controlled trials of individualized homeopathy: a state-of-the-art review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1998 Dec 1;4(4):371-88.