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A scientist’s opinion : Interview with Dr. James B Yu about false medical news

Interview with Dr. James B. Yu about false medical news

Interview with Dr. James B Yu, Professor of Therapeutic Radiology; Medical Director, Smilow Radiation Oncology, Therapeutic Radiology; Director, Prostate and Genitourinary Cancer Radiotherapy Program, Yale School of Medicine.

In your opinion, why is it dangerous to spread false medical news on cancer?

James B Yu: Fake medical news is dangerous especially for cancer because any delay in treatment will lead to people dying of the disease.

In a disease where time is of the essence, we need to be crystal clear in what is real and what is fake.


How could/should the general public be educated about the recognition of false health news, and how could awareness be raised on the misinformation about cancer cures spreading over social media platforms?

James B Yu: I like Dr. Johnson’s Cancer Claims “CRAP Test”  Which basically says- if the misinformation is
1) too good to be true,
2) for expensive products asking for money,
3) based on anecdotes, and
4) it’s unclear who is publishing or originated the misinformation, it is likely untrue.

By which measures would you encourage patients to follow conventional cancer therapy as opposed to complementary medicine cure?

James B Yu: The best way to encourage patients to undergo lifesaving medical therapy that they are afraid of is to listen to them.  I talk with my patients about their hopes and fears, and work with them to find a way for them to understand the need for treatment for their deadly cancers.  Complementary medicine has a role exactly as it sounds: as a complement to medical therapy.  If yoga, or acupuncture, or essential oils, or crystals, or whatever, makes the patient feel better and makes them feel like they can tolerate conventional therapy better, I think it is all fine to pursue as long as it doesn’t interfere with medical treatment.

I first ask them, “do you believe in the complementary treatment?”  If they say something like, “no, my kooky cousin told me about it but I don’t believe it.”  I tell them to not bother.  But if it is consistent with their belief system and they really want to undergo treatment, I ask them a second question.  “Would you rather spend the money on something else?”  And if they say something like, “yes, I’d like to take my wife out to dinner instead.”  I tell them to do that.  I tell them to spend their money on something they will enjoy and that will bring them closer to their loved ones.

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