Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs embraced alternative and holistic treatments, even going so far as to opt for Eastern medicine over conventional Western medicine after he was initially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In October 2003, Steve Jobs underwent a routine abdominal scan—something not uncommon for top executives and CEO’s—which revealed a tumor in his pancreas. A subsequent biopsy revealed that he was one of the fortunate ones with a treatable form of what is commonly a deadly cancer. With proper treatment, in this case a radical and invasive surgical procedure known as a Whipple procedure, most patients such as Jobs would still be alive in a decade.
Tragically, less than eight years following his initial diagnosis, Steve Jobs, a man worth at least $6.5 billion who could afford the best that money could buy access to in the medical world, has died. Despite his fame and vast wealth as the world's 105th richest person, Steve Jobs under-lived the projected survival rate for his pancreatic cancer. While we will never know the answer for his untimely demise, one glaring oddity stands out in Jobs medical treatment.
In the initial nine months following his cancer diagnosis, Steve Jobs bucked conventional medical treatment, in this case surgery, in favor of Eastern medicine approaches. Specifically Steve Jobs opted to treat his cancer with a special diet, much to the horror of people in his tiny inner circle to whom he had confided. Ultimately, Mr. Jobs underwent a Whipple procedure in 2004 at Stanord and a liver transplant in 2009, both of which were significant in extending his life expectancy.
Cancer is a scary word and the diagnosis plunges patients into a search for the most effective treatments. Some gravitate toward modern medical treatments, some to alternative treatments, and some, like Mr. Jobs, blended the best of both. Recent studies point toward complementary treatments as having a very positive impact on the overall health and well-being of cancer patients. Clearly, there is a need and a place for complementary and alternative treatments (CAM) where cancer is concerned, whether aimed at a cure, temporary relief, or overall quality of life.
California’s Dr. Moshe Lewis specializes in the treatment of pain and is an expert in complementary treatments. When asked if he thought cancer patients should ever forgo modern treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation in favor of alternative treatments, Dr. Lewis stated, “No, I believe patients should combine the best of traditional methods with alternative treatments to compliment the best of both and achieve the best care outcome for the patient. It is important to appreciate that testimonials are just that: another person’s experience.” It is not unreasonable that Mr. Jobs and any person with pancreatic cancer would want to maintain a healthy diet and be very particular about what they are putting into their bodies. However, no diet has currently been proven to effectively eradicate pancreatic cancer.
Dr Lewis adds, “I always recommend that patients check with their regular medical doctor and keep them informed of alternative treatments, vitamins and supplements they may be taking. Many supplements help to alleviate symptoms of cancer and side effects from mainstream treatments, such as anti-oxidants and natural anti-inflammatory agents. Diet-wise I like a vegan approach. A healthy dose of humor is always an excellent medication.” Scientific proof of the health benefits of humor can be found as early as 1989 when the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that showed that laughter therapy has an immediate symptom-relieving effect.
Earlier this year, the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) unveiled a new online resource designed to give health care providers easy access to evidence-based information on complementary and alternative medicine. Providers will now have the tools they need to learn about CAM practices and products so they can discuss them with patients. With Americans spending almost $35 billion in out-of-pocket CAM products and practices annually, and studies showing that many patients do not discuss CAM with their physicians, this is good news indeed. As we break down the barriers between modern medicine and CAM, we will all have better control over our health and well-being.