April 10, 2014

Man left with an inch-wide HOLE in his head after using 'quack' ointment to treat skin cancer

A 55-year-old man was left with an inch-wide hole in his head after trying to treat what he thought was cancer. 
An Australian man created an inch-wide hole in his head using an ointment he thought would help treat his skin cancer.

The 55-year-old entered a Brisbane hospital with a large lesion on his right temple after allegedly using Black salve, an ‘alternative medicine’ ointment.

The man is believed to have been applying the salve for four months and he did not turn to professional medical care until there was a black hole in his head.d

Doctors at Princess Alexandra Emergency Department in Brisbane were shocked when the man entered the ward in September last year.

He was using a ‘strong narcotic analgesic used to relieve pain’ to combat the agony and doctors initially believed they would have to operate.

However, he was sent home to tend to the wound with proper instructions and it healed within three months. 

The man had admitted to staff he had been applying an alternative medicine to the area, which staff believe was a type of Black salve.

The ointment, also known as drawing salve, contains sanguinarine – derived from bloodroot – and is often mixed with zinc chloride, working as a corrosive.

The paste is used on a topical area, moles, scars and sometimes cancer, it destroys skin tissue, leaving being a black scar which later falls off.

Black salves were popular in the early 1900s to treat skin lesions, but have been listed as a 'fake cancer treatment' by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2004, and the organisation is actively trying to ban it in the U.S.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) condemned the ointments as recently as 2012, although they are not yet banned.

The TGA says it is ‘unaware of any credible, scientific evidence that black salve, red salve or cansema can cure or treat cancer.’

However, the warnings have not stopped the widespread use of Black salve in Australia.
‘I think it’s used a lot more commonly than we realise,’ dermatologist Dr Erin McMeniman said.

‘Patients are often quite secretive about where they get it from, but dermatologists often end up seeing cases where there are major complications.

‘Most commonly the tumour is not adequately treated and then 12 months later it’s still growing beneath the scar the cancema [black salve] has produced.’

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