The aim of the study was to report epidemiologic data on ‘biofield healers’ (all types of energy healers) in radiation therapy patients, and to assess the possible objective and subjective benefits.
A retrospective study was conducted in a French cancer institute. All consecutive breast or prostate cancer patients undergoing a curative radiotherapy during 2015 were screened (n = 806). Healer consultation procedure, frequency, and remuneration were collected. Patient’s self-evaluation of healer’s impact on treatment tolerance was reported. Tolerance (fatigue, pain) was assessed through visual analogic scale (0 to 10). Analgesic consumption was evaluated.
A total of 500 patients were included (350 women and 150 men), and 256 patients (51.2%) consulted a healer during their radiation treatment, with a majority of women (58%, p < 0.01). Most patients had weekly (n = 209, 41.8%) or daily (n = 84, 16.8%) appointments with their healer. Regarding the self-reported tolerance, > 80% of the patients described a “good” or “very good” impact of the healer on their treatment. Healers were mainly voluntary (75.8%). Regarding the clinical efficacy, no difference was observed in prostate and in breast cancer patients (toxicity, antalgic consumption, pain).
The authors concluded that this study reveals that the majority of patients treated by radiotherapy consults a healer and reports a benefit on subjective tolerance, without objective tolerance amelioration.
The authors admit that their investigation has several limitations:
- Among the 806 screened patients, only 500 were finally included. These patients more likely report their subjective benefit on biofield healing, and could overestimate benefits in the healer group.
- Practices were highly variable from a healer to another.
- Toxicities evaluation might have been biased due to retrospective analysis based on medical patient record.
But what does this study really show?
I think, it demonstrates that:
- Healing is frightfully popular in France. I use the term deliberately, because this level of irrationality does, in fact, frighten me.
- Healing does not seem to alter the natural history of cancer.
And what about the fact that 84% of the patients reported a good or very good impact of the biofield healer on their tolerance to radiotherapy? Does this prove or even suggest that healing has positive effects? I think not! This result is to be expected. Imagine a retrospective study of patients who chose to eat a hamburger. Would we not expext that a similar percentage might claim that eating it did them good?
I rest my case.