MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Olivia Newton-John is postponing her June U.S. and Canadian concert tour dates, as the back pain that initially caused her to postpone the first half of her concert tour, has been diagnosed as bone metastases  form her earlier breast cancer. She now intends to complete a short course of photon radiation therapy along with alternative therapies for improving her quality of life. “I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne”,  Newton-John said. The actress had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. At that time, she underwent chemotherapy after initially trying alternative treatments like acupuncture and homeopathy.

Olivia Newton-John’s daughter Chloe Lattanzi has said her mum would use cannabis oil to aid in her fight against cancer, while long-time friend John Farnham has thrown his support behind the singer. Lattanzi owns a legal marijuana farm in Oregon and said that her mum would also use other natural healing remedies plus modern medicine in addition to cannabis oil to help her battle the deadly disease for the second time.

The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre is a treatment centre of Austin Health, an Australian public hospital. They say that “anyone with a referral from their doctor can be treated here, regardless of the stage of their treatment or insurance status. At the ONJ Centre your care is built around your individual needs. This includes your physical, psychological and emotional health. Every patient is surrounded by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists, allied health and wellbeing therapists. Your dedicated treatment team work together to guide you through your optimal treatment pathway. Learn more about the cancer treatments we deliver at the ONJ Centre, how we support you through your care, and find answers to commonly asked questions.”

Their therapies include acupuncture and several other alternatives used for palliation, but the site seems refreshingly free of false claims and quackery. On their website, they say that “palliative care assists patients who have a life limiting illness to be as symptom free as possible. We work with you to meet your emotional, spiritual and practical needs in a holistic way. Our support is also extended to your family and carers.”

Altogether, this seems like a fairly reasonable approach. Olivia might have learnt a lesson the hard way when her initial breast cancer did not respond to homeopathy. Let’s hope she does get her metastases under control with cutting edge cancer care and is able to keep her spirits up with the additional help of a little complementary medicine.

9 Responses to Olivia Newton-John, cancer and alternative medicine

  • The reason I am commenting on this article is because I came across her name before. She was listed as one of the celebrities to approach to become a Patron or Ambassador for my former employer – Prince Charles was also on that list.

    In other words; they do not advise people (and celebrities) against the dangers of some CM’s, as any responsible scientist would do, but they would rather list all celebrities that have used CM’s in the past (if it has worked or not, doesn’t matter) and try and convince them to promote CAM to the public. A better approach might have been to ask celebrities to get the correct message out there, they can play a very important role in educating the public about the dangers of disproven and unproven CAMs. But that, of course, would mean a drop in sales!

    I also hope that her experience with CMs will help her in making the right choices and that she doesn’t fall for the advances of these unscrupulous people.

  • Australia, of all places, certainly doesn’t need anothe ‘ Cancer Warrior’.

  • I am much more critical of of Prince Charles that Newton-John. He is in a position where he should and must know that his views on CAM are a flagrant denial of science – homeopathy in particular. His patronage of the Royal Society is a farce.

    As a cancer sufferer Newton-John espouses the use of well tested and effective treatments as well as CAM. As someone who is not expected to know the difference between science and nonsense I cut her some slack.

    • She is a singer (albeit woeful) and an actor (again, albeit woeful). Her skills in critical thinking are also limited.

      I wish people like her would stay out of commenting on areas in which they have no understanding. People like her and that prize loonbag, Jenny McCarthy (known for her medical skills by getting her boobs out for Playboy magazine and claiming MMR vaccine caused her son’s autism) distort the public’s understanding of medicine and they should shutup.

  • When I looked at her site yesterday after reading the news story it seemed like the only active treatments available were proper ones. The wibbly CAM stuff was all “supportive”. Can’t complain too much. No outrageous claims being made anywhere. If people want to try some daft stuff to make them feel a bit better as they go through the rigours of treatment, that’s fine by me.

    • I agree but also disagree. To give terminal patients a bit of comfort sounds (and is) good, even when you know that your treatment has no benefit, and I am not really against it. Problem is that these ‘innocent’ therapies grow wings – and these guys know it!

      I am currently in a difficult position where a relatively young lady, with a young family, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was asked for an opinion on an ‘innocent’ treatment called Laetrile (they decided on this based on youtube testimonials). Even if it is only for the sake of the placebo effect, because there is nothing else you can do, should you just keep quite? So what do you do? Well, the only thing that you can do is to warn them about the risks, and for the rest of it, not much else. And to think, they bought the stuff from a local Health Shop and at the end of the day, a lot of people make a lot of money from desperate people making use of the businessman’s slogan, the three D’s: Death, Divorce, Disease

      • Frank.. Laetrile, as I’m sure you are aware, is a cornerstone of the much-debunked but still promoted Gerson Therapy. And is very much marketed as an active therapy rather than a supportive one. I would have no hesitation in gently telling the unfortunate young lady that there is no reason to believe that sticking ground-up apricot kernels up her bum will alter the course of her disease. And she would also have to accompany it with an an incredibly restrictive and prescriptive dietary regime if she wants to comply with the supposed method which allegedly makes the Laetrile effective.

      • I agree but disagree. “Even if it is only for the sake of placebo effect,….” The problem here is that this perpetuates the lie that the fake remedy will help, and therefore, the use and abuse of said remedy spreads like wildfire. The naive and vulnerable will say it must have made a difference when the disease just ran it’s natural course or was temporarily put in remission by real treatments, so the frauds will generate more demand for their fake services. I do appreciate the idea that a terminal patient should be able to do what they want and try anything they want, but to sell them and others false hope is despicable, unless they are provided the truth about real and likely benefits and risks. This would be like saving a life with cardiac defibrillation after sudden death and giving them a shot of water at the same time, somehow suggesting the water made a difference.

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