Americans often seek cancer treatment in Mexicoby Sea Stachura, Minnesota Public Radio
Authorities suspect Daniel and Colleen Hauser are in Mexico seeking alternative treatment for Danny's Hodgkin's lymphoma. Doctors worry that if Danny Hauser doesn't receive chemotherapy for his cancer soon he may die. The Hausers have maintained they are treating Danny with alternative medicine. But among its practitioners, there is wide disagreement over whether alternative medicine alone can stop cancer.
Rochester, Minn. — Anthony and Colleen Hauser have been clear all along about how they wanted to treat their son's cancer. Prior to Danny and Colleen's disappearance the parents told Minnesota Public Radio News that they were building Danny's immune system.
"The mind can do wonders with the healing of the body when it's in the right setting," Colleen Hauser said. "What you need to do is build an immune system and keep him in a good environment so his mind can actually heal his body," added Anthony Hauser.
Their treatment involved feeding Danny raw green vegetables, fish and vitamins. That sort of nutritional dosing is some of the treatment the Danny Hauser could be getting in Mexico, according to Diane Miller, with the Minnesota-based National Health Freedom Coalition, a group that promotes access to alternative health treatments.
"A lot of those clinics have chemotherapy but they are in micro-dosing so they have very small amounts," Miller said. "They do hyper-thermia treatments. They do flaxseed oil diets, or the Doctor Clark protocols for parasites or the auto-immune customized vaccinations."
Most of the cancer clinics in Mexico are in Tijuana, according to Miller, and are often run by American health practitioners who are able to practice their methods away from U.S. regulation. She said the Hausers are probably deciding what treatment to follow based on their own research.
"And that is what many Americans do," Miller said. "They met someone who has been cured of cancer overseas or in a different country or underground in a group of people who use different cancer things. They find out for themselves how people get better and then they go do that."
Scientific research shows that alternative therapies, like acupuncture, are effective for conditions like migraines, but not for serious illnesses, like cancer, according to Mary Jo Kreitzer, the director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.
"There are situations like the situation we're talking about today," Kreitzer said, "the diagnosis of a very serious childhood cancer where there is a preponderance of evidence that conventional medicine does have a treatment that works that will be effective and there is no evidence that a treatment like acupuncture or an integrative therapy would have a success rate."
But many in the naturopathic community disagree with that assessment. They feel the lack of evidence actually reflects a lack of research.
Lise Alschuler recommends pulling from both medical approaches. Alschuler is the president of the Association of Naturopathic Practioners. She's also a naturopathic oncologist who practices in Arizona. She frequently recommends her cancer patients undergo conventional treatment along with the integrative medicine she prescribes. But she said some of her patients have decided to go to Mexico for treatment, and they do return feeling better, according to Alschuler.
"They are typically converting people to a really healthful, nutrient dense diet," Alschuler said. "But it's possible to feel well and have a cancer growing rapidly at the same time."
That's what happens with some of her patients, but not all.
"I've also had patients who have come back and have had some reduction with their tumors, even had a couple of patients who had significant reduction with their tumors," she said.
In all of her patients who visited clinics in Mexico, the tumors eventually returned, Alschuler said.
- Morning Edition, 05/22/2009, 7:20 a.m.