A Tip for Oncologists, Doctors and Nurses

A Tip for Oncologists, Doctors and Nurses

After I left Oxford with my Biochemistry Degree, I went into Advertising in London, training with top company, Ogilvy and Mather.


Somehow I rose to the top pretty quickly and was MD of Publicis when I was about 29, and then at 32 Chairman and CEO of Ted Bates in the UK, then the third largest communication group both in London and the world. In the end, the inevitable happened. A group of us launched our own agency and we ended up with a group of 9 companies on the London stock market. 


Advertising is all about people – they are your only asset. Throughout my time as CEO and Chairman, I noticed a number of traits in people; one common trait used to bring a consistent, almost exasperated, comment from me. A client might ask a question of an account director and would be given an off-the-cuff reply which could best be summarised as a complete load of rubbish. So I would call in the account director and say, “You do understand that there is no loss of face if you don’t know the answer. You will get a much better reaction if you say, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer but I will look into it and find out, and come back to you next Monday’. An answer like that shows both care and professionalism.


So who is training the Doctors and oncologists and nurses at our hospitals in the UK? When they are told by a patient that she changed her diet as soon as she heard she had cancer, a lady with Colorectal cancer may well be simply belittled by the medical staff with a shrug of the shoulders, a wry smile, a comment like, ‘You know it won’t make any difference’; or even ‘there’s no research that changing your diet does any good’. On supplements you may be told, ‘they’re a waste of time’, or more erroneously, ‘they protect cells, but we want the chemo to attack the cells’. Then there’s the latest nonsense from the Medical Profession over the human microbiome, where one of our patients was told that, 'You do know it’s all a load of rubbish’.


The problem is that Oncologists, doctors and nurses lose credibility immediately they say these stupid things. Even worse, this is mis-information and dangerous. It can reduce survival times and cause an earlier death. 


These patients have cancer, not brain damage. A quick Internet search would reveal that the National Cancer Institute have Dr. Young S. Kim, a Biochemist who specialises in nutrition, genomics and cancer, and is head of Cancer and Nutrition there. She is very clear that a poor diet promotes cancer recurrence whilst a good diet prevents it; and she has a number of quality studies to prove it. Then there’s research from the American Cancer Society on how Diet and Exercise increase survival by 31% and reduce death in a 7-year period by 42%. Pray tell us Mr. Oncologist, which of your drugs produces figures like this? And if you put someone off incorporating a 'good diet' into their cancer programme, aren't you at risk of reducing their survival and increasing their risk of earlier death?


If you don’t know the correct answer, please don’t bullshit. Please don’t belittle or mock the patient – it shows a lack of care and it is unprofessional. And please don’t tell patients fake facts – a cancer cell has a completely different biochemistry to a healthy cell. Some compounds, like curcumin for example, protect a healthy cell but attack a cancer cell in the same way a tiger might attack an antelope but not a lizard


In future, when you are asked something by a patient, to which you do not know the correct answer, just say, “I’m sorry, it’s not my area of expertise. Go and look on the CANCERactive Website, you’ll probably find the answer there.  It will make YOU look a lot less dumb. And it will be a lot more beneficial to the patient.



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