Alternative Vs. Complimentary Treatments For Cancer

by Jane Ashley

 It is disturbing that so much disinformation floats around about cancer treatment. Misinformation creates fear in many newly-diagnosed patients — they have heard “horror” stories about chemo and “terror” tales about radiation. Well-meaning friends and relatives buy books and forward emails about all sorts of “natural” cures, juicing, supplements or diets to cure cancer.

40 Percent Believe

How many people believe that alternative treatments cure cancer?

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), nearly four out of every ten people believe that cancer can be cured with alternative treatments.

ASCO commissioned a Harris Poll survey in August 2018, polling over 4,800 people, including over 1,000 patients who currently had cancer or had cancer in the past. The results were astonishing.

Almost four out of 10 U.S. citizens (39%) believed that cancer could be cured just with alternative treatments – treatments including diet, vitamins, supplements, enzyme and oxygen therapy, or minerals. They held this belief despite studies that show a significantly higher mortality rate for people who sought alternative treatments.

A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that patients who chose alternative methods for treatment of the four most common types of cancer (breast, colorectal, lung and prostate) had a 2.5 times as high mortality rate as patients who chose conventional treatment.

Adults under the age of 53 are most likely to hold these beliefs (47% of adults 18-37 and 44% of adults 38-53). Belief in alternative treatments may stem from social media and high internet use. “Miracle cures” abound. Three of the most common, highly publicized cures that have not been proven are: cannabis oil, laetrile (aka apricot pits) and changing PH levels within the body by diet.

What are complementary treatments for cancer?

Complementary therapies are treatments used along with conventional cancer treatment (CCT) to help ease side effects from treatment and symptoms caused by the cancer itself. Complementary treatments combined with traditional treatments is referred to as integrative medicine — in other words, treating the whole patient — so that we can tolerate our cancer treatment with minimum side effects.

What can complementary medicine help? The American Society of Clinical Oncologists tells us about these complementary treatments may help cancer patients during and after their treatment.

Complementary Treatments

Acupuncture – may relieve pain, help nausea, hot flashes and dry mouth.

Massage – reduces pain and decreases stress and tension. Eases anxiety and depression. Helps insomnia.

Meditation – helps calm the mind and relax the body. Enhances mindfulness.

Music therapy – helps many patients in hospital settings or in palliative care.

Nutrition – management of weight changes and symptoms like nausea. Helps patients recover from difficult surgeries through proper nutrition.

Physical Activity – reduces fatigue and stress, builds endurance and strength and relieves anxiety and depression. Exercise improves longevity.

Tai Chi – this ancient technique combines movement and deep breathing to strengthen the body and soothe the soul.

Yoga – yoga employs ancient poses to stretch muscles while employing deep breathing. Yoga helps reduce pain, inflammation and fatigue.

The Bottom Line … There is no substitute for conventional cancer treatment.

Every one of us at who are NED (no evidence of disease) or who have been stable for several years have gotten to that place with conventional cancer treatment. None of us know anyone who refused traditional treatment and chose juicing, herbs or extreme dietary changes who survived. Yes, some people claim that on the internet, but the claims are false — no scientific evidence to back up their claims — no clinical trials.

Death Rate Higher

Cancer treatment is scary. Were we scared? Yes, we were.

But we listened carefully to what our doctors proposed. Many of us obtained second opinions to feel confident that we were on the right path of treatment. We studied the NCCN patient guidelines — treatment guidelines based on most effective treatments from 28 cancer treatment centers in the U.S.

Another danger of substituting alternative treatment for conventional cancer treatment is that a person’s cancer may progress and worsen. By the time that a person realizes that their alternative treatment isn’t working, their conventional treatment choices may be limited by the progression of their cancer.

Our best option for curing our cancer is conventional cancer treatment (CCT). Using complementary treatments for symptom and side effects relief is safe and effective, but don’t omit any part of your conventional treatment plan because you are using complementary treatments — complementary treatments are just that — to complement what your conventional treatment plan utilizes.

It’s tempting to hear that something easier than conventional cancer treatment will cure our cancer. But cancer is a complex disease and requires a complex, multidisciplinary approach to treatment.

Have you used alternative or complementary therapy? What have you tried and how did it work?

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