A DAD is drinking his own daughter’s breast milk in the hope it may help treat his bowel cancer.
Fred Whitelaw, 64, was first diagnosed with the disease in 2015.
But after being given the all clear his cancer returned in April last year.
Determined to help, his daughter Jill Turner, began looking at research into alternative therapies for her cancer-stricken dad.
She eventually came across research that suggested human breast milk may help kill off cancerous cells.
Studies have found that chemicals in breast milk can kill off cancerous cells.
However, it is still considered to be an alternative treatment and anyone considering it as an option should consult their doctor first.
It is also not known whether consuming the milk as a drink – or what quantity of milk – would be needed to have an effect.
Jill, 30, gave birth to her son, Llewyn, in October last year and began expressing more milk than needed in order to supply her dad with a daily dosage shortly after.
Despite being hesitant at first, Fred, who is now retired, realised he had nothing to lose and decided to give it a go.
He now adds it to his morning coffee in the hope it will help him beat bowel cancer.
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Jill, an admin assistant for the NHS, said: "I was devastated when I found out about my dad's diagnosis, I wanted to help him in any way I could and that's when I started to give him my breast milk.
"I was researching online when I came across an article for alternative uses for breast milk."
Since then Jill's husband, Kyle, 30, has used his wife's breast milk to help ease his eczema.
And the couple have also used it to help treat their son's conjunctivitis.
But when Jill discovered the possible links with cancer, she didn't think her family would take her seriously.
"When I mentioned it's possible links with cancer they thought I was joking and never did I think that my dad would agree to drink it," she recalled.
"But he too realised he had nothing to lose and thought why not try it.”
WHAT SCIENCE IS THERE BEHIND THE IDEA?
COUNTLESS studies have shown the benefits of breastfeeding from mum to baby.
Breast milk protects against infections and diseases, including childhood leukaemia, diabetes, obesity and heart disease in adulthood.
One study, published in 2010 by scientists at Lund University found breastfeeding can also protect infants from cancer.
They discovered a substance known as human alpha-lactalbumin killed off diseased cells (HAMLET), and was effective against 40 different types of cancer.
Crucially, HAMLET does not kill healthy cells so does not come with a range of nasty side effects.
Breastfeeding has also been shown to have health benefits for mum too.
Research has shown it lowers a new mum's risk of breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and obesity.
But, when it comes to the wider benefits to anyone other than mum and infant, there is less scientific evidence.
Experts have warned adults there is no evidence drinking breast milk can treat bowel cancer.
Caroline Geraghty, Cancer Research UK’s senior cancer information nurse, recommends speaking to a GP before taking an alternative treatment for cancer.
She said: “There is no evidence that drinking breast milk can treat bowel cancer.
“If a cancer patient wants to know whether a treatment that has not been prescribed is safe and could be helpful, they should discuss this with their doctor before taking it.”
Other experts have, in the past, warned adults trying breast milk to improve their health could be putting themselves at risk of harm instead.
In an editorial published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, authors led by Dr Sarah Steele of Queen Mary University, London, said the claims made regarding an adult's health don't stand up to clinical evidence.
Dr Steele wrote: "Nutritionally, there is less protein in breast milk than other milks like cow's milk.
"No scientific study has evidenced that direct adult consumption of human milk for medicinal purposes offers anything more than a placebo effect."
And she added where breast milk is found to help is when it is broken down, to individual components or at a stem cell level, rather than actually drinking it in it's natural state.
Dr Steele also warned drinking human breast milk exposes people to "a host of infectious diseases, incluiding hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis".
"Improper storage not only increases the risk of food-borne illnesses but also may introduce toxins into the milk," Dr Steele added.
"Additionally, alcohol, drugs, tobacco and caffeine pass into the milk."
Fred has only been drinking the milk for a month so doesn’t know if it has helped in any way.
The family are hoping tests in a couple of weeks will reveal his tumour has shrunk.
Jill, from Rugby in Warwickshire, added: “Everyone has been really supportive, my mum even bought us a table top fridge that we keep in the kitchen and anything in there is for my dad.
When I mentioned it’s possible links with cancer they thought I was joking and never did I think that my dad would agree to drink it
"Breast milk lasts for eight days so I mark each container with a sell by date to ensure dad knows what he can drink.
"He doesn't drink it on its own though, for now he has it in coffee but I'm hoping he will also have it in his porridge if I can express enough.
"I just want to do anything that I can to help and I don't see the problem in giving my dad something that is natural."
Fred underwent an operation to treat his cancer in September last year.
The surgery was successful but not all of the cancerous cells were destroyed, so Fred was given two rounds of chemotherapy.
Jill said: "Doctors thought he would be in hospital for weeks recovering, but he was home within eight days.
"No matter what he has thrown at him he never gives up, nothing seems to stop him.”
WHAT ARE THE KEY SIGNS YOU COULD HAVE BOWEL CANCER?
Bowel cancer can be treated, but the earlier it is diagnosed the better a patient’s chance of survival.
If you suffer any symptoms, however embarrassing you may think they are, go to see your doctor.
GPs deal with bowels, tummy problems, diarrhoea and all sorts on a regular basis, so what may seem grim to you, is part of their normal working day.
The key signs you could have bowel cancer include:
- bleeding from your bottom, and/or blood in your poo
- a change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or longer
- unexplained weight loss
- extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- a pain or lump in your tummy
Most of the time, a person suffering these symptoms won’t have bowel cancer.
Other health problems can cause similar symptoms, but it is vital doctors rule out cancer early on.
And while Jill is hoping her breast milk will cure her father, she admits that the science behind it is “trial and error” at the moment.
She said: “At the moment it's just trial and error, there isn't much research available which is a shame.
"I'm not clued up on the portions but I just hope it makes some sort of difference.
"We will be seeing an oncologist in four weeks' time who regularly takes my dad's bloods so it will be interesting to see if there is any change in his levels."
But Caroline Geraghty, Cancer Research UK’s senior cancer information nurse, recommends speaking to a GP before taking an alternative treatment for cancer.
She said: "There is no evidence that drinking breast milk can treat bowel cancer.
"If a cancer patient wants to know whether a treatment that has not been prescribed is safe and could be helpful, they should discuss this with their doctor before taking it."
For more information of Fred’s cancer battle or to donate to the family you can visit their fundraising page here.
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