Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Suzanne Somers "Total Body Cancer" Debunked: The Cliff Notes Version

I love reading Respectful Insolence. Orac does a wonderfully meticulous job of tearing down all kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense. Go and read -- sometime when you have some extra time on your hands. The more time, the better; although he is good, he does tend to ramble a bit.

His current project is a review of the new book nonsense by the original ditzy blonde herself, Suzanne Somers. The problem is that she is too stupid to recognize the utter depths of nonsense she has plumbed in this tome. The "Doctors who are Curing Cancer" interviewed in this book are uniformly quacks whose techniques and treatments are either ridiculously implausible or scientifically proven not to work -- or both. Go and read Orac's archives for more detail. Also be aware that he will be posting more about the book; he's a better man than I. Then again, presumably if his brains explode he has his wife and/or laboratory cleaning personnel to clean them up after him. I have to do it myself, and brains are notoriously difficult to get out of carpet, not to mention all the little nooks and crannies of keyboards.

His most recent post is fabulous, but really long. I thought I would perform a public service by cutting to the chase and revealing what curious readers -- albeit those who have too much to do to peruse Respectful Insolence in its entirety -- are, well, curious about. At least I was.

Apparently in Chapter 1 of the book, Somers states that she was "misdiagnosed with total body cancer." Knowing that there is no such thing, Orac and I wondered what it could have been. Orac, who actually went and read the thing, reveals that it was disseminated coccidiomycosis, also known as Valley Fever. Coccidiomyces doesn't usually cause much in the way of illness in generally healthy, immunocomptetent people. On the other hand, one of the risk factors for dissemination is a suppressed immune system. Manfully resisting Leaving aside for a moment the I-told-you-so temptation (aka schadenfreude) to someone who took fistfuls of supplements supposedly intended to strengthen the immune system, what really was going on with her?

I knew that her supplement list included "bio-identical hormones" like estrogen. I also happen to know that chemically, estrogen is indeed a "steroid" hormone, however its protean effects do not include direct effects on the immune system. Ah, but it turns out that her regimen included "cortisol repletion"! Aha! She was indeed taking corticosteroids (unprescribed and unmonitored by a competent physician; funny about that)! And those can indeed depress the immune system.

The real problem with pseudoscience is that people's bodies neither know nor care what the person inhabiting them believes. Suzanne Somers' belief that she was "cortisol deficient" didn't make her so. She ate cortisone. Her body responded by making less of it, and by damping down its native immunity, thus allowing a usually indolent fungus to spread throughout her body.

Dumbass.

There you go: 550 words, give or take, compared with Orac's almost-9,000 word screed. Granted he covered far more material than I -- and I strongly encourage you to go read it -- but the more I think about it, the more I believe I have summarized Suzanne Somers effectively and accurately. In fact, I shall repeat it for emphasis:

Dumbass.

12 Comments:

At Tue Nov 03, 04:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac's best line: I don't know what "full body cancer" is, but I do know what "full body stupid" is!

 
At Tue Nov 03, 08:16:00 PM, Blogger Shay said...

My only medical training consisted of combat first aid (I've been waiting since 1979 for the opportunity to treat a sucking chest wound) but even I know there ain't no such thing as total body cancer.

I suppose one might take comfort in reflecting that anyone dumb enough to take the word of a has-been actor over a qualified cancer practitioner is, in the long run, doing the species a favor.

 
At Tue Nov 03, 08:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That must be the source of this "adrenal support" crap a patient came in with recently. Also she had a whole page of spit tests for various "hormone levels." I told her I believed in science and therefore could not help her and referred her back to the whack job who gave her the stuff. Cortisol repletion my aunt Fanny.

 
At Tue Nov 03, 09:45:00 PM, Blogger Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

Orac is amazing, isn't he, if not long winded! Thanks for the cliff notes version.

 
At Tue Nov 03, 10:09:00 PM, Blogger Dragonfly said...

"The real problem with pseudoscience is that people's bodies neither know nor care what the person inhabiting them believes". Best quote ever.

Also, whole body cancer, disseminated infection - as they say in South East Asia "same same, but DIFFERENT".

 
At Wed Nov 04, 06:27:00 AM, Blogger Sara said...

Gott in himmel people are taking steroids as supplements now?

 
At Wed Nov 04, 09:05:00 AM, OpenID behlerblog said...

"Full body cancer"? Srsly? Just the name makes me laugh. That Sommers believed this pile of misplaced adjectives shows that she needs a keeper and should be laughed out of her zip code.

 
At Wed Nov 04, 09:56:00 PM, Anonymous 4th yr vet student said...

I don't know, Dino. The certified animal acupuncture DVM who lectured to us today told us that the intent behind the treatment is just as important as the treatment itself. So if Suzanne Somers intended for the supplemental cortisol to aid her health, then that's what it should have done....

 
At Thu Nov 05, 11:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, now I came across it AGAIN - I think we need a post on this whole "adrenal fatigue" bullshit. If it's the second time in a couple of weeks, soon it's going to be the next chronic Lyme disease. (PS I practice in a part of the world where Lyme disease is not endemic...yet am still familiar with the "phenomenon.")

 
At Fri Nov 06, 11:36:00 AM, Blogger Maureen said...

To be fair, Valley fever can be fairly nasty even to the healthy, so no wonder it scared her.

Ask anybody who's been stationed out at Monterey. (That's where they discovered Valley fever back in WWII, but they still don't actually, like, warn people.) Personally, I think they should put warnings in all the travel guides, but then, it made me sicker n' a monkey without any fancy steroids.

OTOH, when the doctor found my dad's funky lung scarring in some test, it was good to find out it came from his year at Monterey doing army school instead of from anything worse.

 
At Fri Nov 06, 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Dreaming again said...

when she said full body cancer, I searched and googled and blinged and searched journals for ANY diagnosis of full body cancer. Found only references to Suzanne Summers ...

I'm stunned to see the real dx is Valley Fever ...so the only real misdiagnosis was that she decided that she had cancer and then found out she had fungal infection? (or virus ..can't remember)

Maureen, my very healthy father came very close to loosing his life from Valley Fever in 1979, so yes, healthy people can get very ill. (but he's also the only person I've ever known who got that ill from it, I've had it, mom, sister, brother, step father, step mother ...you live in that valley, some cold you've got, one time in your life, is likely at some point to be VF but you'll never know it unless you get as sick as Dad) Being very scared doesn't give her the right to change the dx from VF to Full Body Cancer and go around trying to scare the whole world with this misterious misdx

 
At Fri Nov 13, 06:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I just became your biggest fan! I have a sister-in-law who makes me absolutely crazy with her need to oppose anything said or done by mainstream medicine. If a doctor prescribes it, it must be bad. If her "healer" suggests it after diagnosing her long distance by palpating her energy from three states away, then it must be good. You are right in your assertion: dumb ass!

 

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