The Risk of Alternative Cancer Treatments

A diagnosis of cancer, even an early-stage, highly curable cancer, can prompt some people to feel as if they’ve suddenly lost control of their future and that they must do whatever they can to regain it.

One web-based group, Integrative Cancer Answers, states that as many as 83 percent of cancer patients choose to use one or more forms of alternative medicine, ranging from acupuncture and herbs to vitamins and yoga, most often in conjunction with therapies clinically proven to be effective.

In a recent study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine of 281 patients with potentially curable cancers of the breast, lung, colon-rectum or prostate that had not yet spread beyond their site of origin, the use of alternative medicine in lieu of conventional cancer treatments resulted in an overall death rate two and a half times higher than the rate experienced by patients getting standard therapies.

In a related report in JAMA Oncology, Dr. Johnson’s team wrote that the higher death rate associated with the alternative treatments used by patients in their study was likely to have been “mediated by the refusal of conventional cancer treatment.”

“Complementary medicine,” on the other hand, carries fewer risks, since it is used along with standard remedies, most often to lessen treatment side effects and enhance feelings of well-being, If chosen properly, complementary therapies should not interfere with the benefits of established treatments.

Read more of this news at The New York Times