Breast Cancer

My mom’s been diagnosed with breast cancer late last year and underwent a masectomy in December, she is now receiving a course of chemotherapy at the Jo’burg Gen due to the lack of a medical aid.

At any rate, in Jan when she had to go for her first treatment, she was told to go with a chap with her file in hand and were taken by taxi (!!!) to another part of town (the importance of someone going with to these places has become apparant here). Here she was taken to a room full of “first time diagnosed” cancer patients and addressed by a heavy accented Italian. They wanted them to sign on for a trial treatment - AND THATS NOT ALL FOLKS! - they’ll get the pricely sum of R50 per treatment if they do…

At this point my mom, exhausted, stressed and near tears insisted to be taken back to the Jo’burg Gen, as she readied herself for the chemo and not to be a guinnea pig for a lot of Italians (her words). She got back too late to have the treatment and had to return the next day BUT she was also the only one that went back for the chemo.

She chucked the pamphlets she received away before I could lay my grubby hands on it, and I cant find anything on alternative treatment offered via the Jo’burg Gen. Does anybody here know anything about it?

I hate the fact that our country are being used as cheap fertile ground for unproven treatments, our people are ignorant and uneducated and opportunities for life are being risked with these treatments.

Faerie, first of all, I’m sorry to hear about your Moms diagnosis and I wish her well.

Second of all, I’m horrified to read what happened to her. Is there any way that she can get hold of the pamphlets again? Perhaps if someone goes with her for her next treatment, they could enquire about it? It sounds very suspicious and I think someone should look into it.


Faerie I’m also sorry to hear about your Mom’s cancer and can also understand your concern.
I’ve googled a bit and came across these.

Maybe you would be lucky on google to find their email address and
Find out if they perhaps are busy with trials in Jhb. Google: Dr. Angelo Di Leo of Prato in Italy trials in South Africa

It seems very interesting though, just very difficult to allow our own families to be guinea pigs. But I guess we must keep in mind that, if they were successful with trials on animals, they must at one stage start on humans. I would say they must rather test it on patients whose chemo treatments were unsuccessful.

Good luck

Here is where the ethics get a but fiddly for me.

In a study like this it is inevitable that there are going to be placebo’s given out. Is it morally OK to give a cancer patient a placebo instead of chemo, in the name of science?

For these kinds of studies, placebo controls are not always necessary or desirable. With cancers in particular, there are clear, objective, historical criteria for judging the effectiveness of a treatment, for example spontaneous vs. treatment-induced remission rates, the size and extent of the cancer, and so on. This means that the whole study group can be given the new treatment and, provided the group is large enough in number, the results can then be statistically compared for effectiveness with respect to those criteria. Another option is to administer existing treatment regimens to a randomly-selected subgroup as the “placebo” control, and then to compare the results of the new to the existing. In both cases, the moral dilemma of using a placebo doesn’t arise, which is not to say that it never arises in such studies.

Duly informed, it’s up to the individual to decide whether they wish to participate or not. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it depends which phase of clinical evaluation a study is located at. Not all of them make use of placebos.


I need some advice please! My mom went for her third chemotherapy treatment yesterday and was told that she needs to have radiotherapy as well, its in the form of tablets though, and that’s confusing me as everything I find on google re radiotherapy is from a machine, tablets as far as I can ascertain means hormone/natural therapies. I’m thoroughly confused. Does anybody have any information about radiotherapy in pill form?

Found this, not for breast cancer though, still interesting to read…

Somehow jane’s link is broken for me. The working link is:

And that’s the only possibility I can really think of. To do radio therapy you’d need a machine doing the exposing or make your patient swallow radioactive isotopes. You couldn’t really target anything in the body that way, other than, as the link states, organs that naturally retain the isotope you’ve injected. Perhaps you need to request more info from the professional prescribing the treatment.

Faerie, I thought you might find the article in this month’s Skeptical Enquirer useful.

The War on Cancer - A Progress Report for Skeptics.

Its Jhb Gen Hospital… they spend at most 3 minutes per patient and fob off any in-debth questions you attempt to ask (there’s 4 doctors and they see on average 400 patients A DAY), its so very frustrating.

Thank you for the links, its appreciated!

Faerie, maybe you should try to visit a CANSA office, perhaps they would be able to give you more info on the tablets or treatment. (Dono if they only refer patients to Doctors and hospitals, or have info on treatment available)

I had a really sad chat this morning with my business partners wife. They are very religious. I fly up to Joburg from Cape Town monthly for business on a monthly basis and stay with them. This is one of those cases where you pick your fights - they know I am an atheist and I know they are mistaken, and we leave it at that.

Anyway, she was telling me that our one driver’s wife has cancer. His family sent her back to the homelands to see a sangoma. That didn’t work, so they prayed, and prayed and prayed. Now she is apparently so sick that she is starting to smell, and they are taking her to the Jhb Gen this morning! My exterior remained calm and subdued and I expressed my sympathy, but my interior was screaming (wtf!!), my coffee cup was smashing against the wall - I was furious!

My maid found a lump about 2 months ago, the doctor scheduled surgery 2 days later and the removed the cancerous tissue. The cases of cancer may have been completely different, but what chance do you have if you are diagnosed with cancer and you waste precious time on potions, magic spells and wishful thinking!

Very sad to think that this is far from an isolated case…

Whats really sad, is first of all that she’ll get no help at any government hospital at this time due to the strikes, and second of all, its probably too late…

My mom’s in remission now, fortunately, however, I chatted to the doc’s at the Helen Joseph hospital, and they see 400 cases A DAY. (new and current patients) - there are 9 full-time doctors and they most days manage to get through them.

Its the same thing with HIV/AIDS, its potions and prayers, Faithdrops and homeopathy and the people are dropping like flies. I get myself in all sorts of knots just thinking about it.