Review of BBC Documentary “False Hope? Alternative Cancer Cures” – Ellie McFarlane

A BBC documentary, by journalist Layla Wright, explores the false hope given to many cancer patients by ‘alternative clinics’ offering alternative treatments to chemotherapy including a strict diet.

Sean Walsh was 17 when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, a form of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. He battled through a gruelling 6 months of chemotherapy, only to be told the devasting news that the cancer had returned, less than two years later. Sean’s doctors in the NHS told him that even with stem cell therapy and more chemotherapy, his chances of long-term survival would still be just 50%.

The stages of Hodgkin Lymphoma. Sourced from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.


With this news, Sean decided to take matters into his own hands. He began researching alternative cancer therapies online and upon hearing the story of Rosa Hughes, who claimed to have cured her own cancer with diet and supplements alone, Sean turned down the treatments offered to him on the NHS. He turned instead to a vegan diet, coffee enemas and cannabis oil.

When Rosa Hughes, wife of homoeopath Phillip Hughes, discovered a lump in her breast, she followed her husband’s homoeopathic advice and ‘reverse this cancer herself’.

Despite these claims, Rosa never had proper testing such as a biopsy to get a medical diagnosis that the lump was in fact cancer.

Layla Wright went undercover in Rosa and Phillips’ clinic, claiming she too had found a lump in her breast. Rosa recommended Layla ignored medical advice to get a mammogram and instead, ask for an ultrasound.


‘Not a mammogram, because you’re going to get radiated, and it’s going to squash… and the number of women that have had their tumours, the tumour burst, that spreads cancer.’ – Rosa Hughes to Layla Wright


The documentary interviewed a cancer expert, Prof Andrew Wardley, who squashed these claims made by Rosa, saying ‘You do not spread cancer by doing a mammogram, that’s a complete fallacy’. Cancer cannot burst and whilst having a mammogram isn’t a pleasant experience, it is the recommended way to detect and monitor breast cancer by experts across the country.


A statement from the FDA’s website on mammograms reads:

‘Mammography is the most safe and effective tool for screening and diagnosis of breast cancer, and the only method proven to increase the chance of survival through earlier detection.’


Thermography uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns in the body, including blood flow. In a study of over 10,000 women, 72% of women who developed breast cancer had a normal thermogram result, showing its insensitivity.

Rosa and Phillip’s clinic offers thermography scans to monitor the cancer, despite the disclaimers on the scans in fine print stating that thermography cannot detect cancer.


Sourced directly from ‘Medical Thermal Imaging’s’ (company owned by Philip Hughes) website

Sean was told his cancer had been fully reversed based on a thermogram scan. He was rushed to hospital months later where he was told the devastating news that the cancer was beyond treatment. He died shortly after, aged 23.

The documentary is still available on BBC iPlayer for 6 months.