Thursday, May 28, 2009

One of the stranger medications I've heard of in a long time ...

Tim Browne isn't the luckiest of folks: the poor bastard's been landed with terminal colon cancer, which effectively tends to put a bit of a damper on things. However, he'd determined to get on with it and be as healthy as he can be despite the ticking time-bomb in his gut – but not via conventional treatment. He's not outright refusing chemotherapy, which he has indeed been undergoing; he's just decided to use something additional ... in the form of his daughter's own breast milk.

Queasy eyes, avert.

When Tim Browne sits down to a bowl of corn flakes in the morning, he slurps up one unusual, and controversial, extra ingredient: his own daughter's breast milk.

He doesn't do it for the taste -- Browne initally said his daughter Georgia's breast millk tasted "not unpleasant, but slightly pungent" -- but for his health.

Nearly two years ago, the retired teacher and musician from Wiltshire, England, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He went into surgery a week before his daughter's wedding, but a month later, doctors told him the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes and was terminal.

The realms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) holds a vast array of unorthodox, odd, and downright disturbing treatments, but this, I think, is a unique category in itself. I've definitely never heard anything like it before.

However, turns out the daughter had heard of it previously – which was exactly what gave her the idea to suggest it in the first place.

Surgery was ruled out this time, so Browne began a course of chemotherapy. Desperate to help, his daughter Georgia came up with the idea while watching a show about breast milk.

[It was] a man in America. It was prostate cancer this man had and he'd been drinking breast milk every day," she said. "Anyway, this guy really swore by the breast milk and said that it had reduced his tumors."

Georgia was nursing her 8-month-old son Monty and offered to set aside a few ounces of milk every day for Browne. Browne started calling Monty his "milk brother."

"If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her? As long as Monty didn't mind," Browne said.

"Milk brothers"? ... Well, whatever type of fraternity suits you, I guess.

There are of course many benefits to breast milk (despite perhaps its taste – not that I would know ...), which is one of fairly few bodily substances we aren't yet able to artificially replicate in a lab. If it can keep a newborn alive for weeks before actual food is needed, it obviously can't do harm to consume it, and it has been shown to have health-boosting effects, but really ... I don't think I'd be drinking the breast milk from any of my hypothetical daughters any time soon. Or any other ladies, really.

However, breast milk may have substantive health benefits, but those unfortunately do not include treating or curing cancer. And yet still, Browne's cancer has been seen to be varying in size – yet that's typical of colo-rectal forms of cancer, and doesn't indicate any type of remission or being influenced by treatment.

As it turns out, my hunch is/was correct when I first thought that this was more-than-likely simply the product of "mind over matter":

ABC News medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard said that even though breast milk is known to have benefits and it's make up can't be reproduced, "there's no research to say those same proteins in human breast milk will benefit this man."

Savard said the placebo effect in this case, though, is very real.

Exactly. It's a long-known and convoluted sort of truth that treatments don't actually need to work, to work, at times: the mind controls the body very effectively, being able to both spawn and eliminate a very wide range of illnesses and problems (though I wonder if curing cancer is among its repertoire of abilities). Browne simply believes very firmly in the efficiency of this weird treatment, so in that little way, it does reduce the cancer's impact ... though don't expect his terminal cancer to disappear entirely. That's not gonna happen.

(via Respectful Insolence)


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