Quackery and Fraud

Post diagnosis can be a scary time for those with cancer. Often patients will start to research alternative methods in a desperate attempt to uncover the “cure.” Unfortunately, this has opened the door for others to create treatment options and plans as a way of taking advantage of those looking for hope.


Quackery is a term denoted by the American Cancer Society that refers to the false promotions of methods that claim to prevent, diagnose, or cure cancers. These claims are highly unlikely, unproven, and generally false. These types of methods often rely on theories that are not a part of accepted standard medicine. Likewise, there are likely not any existing reports or coinciding trial studies to support the claims of these unorthodox treatments. Rather than relying on proven methods as an indication of effectiveness, methods referred to as “quackery” will normally rely on patient testimonials as statements of effectiveness and safety. These statements are not evidence-based and patients should remain skeptical if that is all a company offers in support of their product or treatment.


Another publicized section of treatments that go beyond quackery are known as fraud. Fraud uses deceptive advertisements and unproved or untested treatments with the intent of turning a profit. These treatments can be ineffective and even harmful despite false claims. Oftentimes, companies engaging in unethical practices will move offshore to other countries in an attempt to avoid authorities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration are responsible for approving new drugs, as well as regulating the marketing of supplements. The Federal Trade Commission is another agency involved in enforcing marketing laws designed for dietary supplements. Both of these agencies have protocols in place so that consumers can report deceptive advertising or fraudulent practices. The ACS notes some important steps to take when considering a treatment. The following is a list of items that are considered red flags and may suggest fraud:

  • Does the treatment promise to cure all or most cancers?
  • Does the treatment advise only the use of their method along with abandoning other standard medical treatments?
  • Is the treatment secretive, requiring that the patient only visit certain providers or travel to another country, in order to receive treatment?

Consult a Doctor

Being diagnosed with cancers such as mesothelioma can be a difficult time for patients and their loved ones. It is important to remember that treatments, pills, and methods that seem too good to be true usually are. Consulting a licensed physician or specialist is a step toward deciding which standard, complementary, or alternative methods are right for each individual.