Alternative or complementary treatment and cancer

Complementary and alternative medicines are more commonly used in cancer treatment .

Up to 70% of patients in recent studies have expressed the importance of such therapy, and this has not gone unnoticed by the medical profession.

Differences between complementary medicine and alternative medicine

Complementary medicine

  • Complementary medicines help patients to relax and enable them to socialise with others.
  • They can also improve side-effects and patients can enjoy a better quality of life.
  • They include:
    • massages
    • relaxation
    • music therapy
    • yoga
    • tai chi
    • homeopathy
    • acupuncture
  • These medicines are complementary to "standard" treatments, and should not cause harm to patients, but conversely, help them to live and cope better with cancer.

Alternative medicine

  • Alternative treatments are often prescribed by "specialists" not working in the "traditional" medical profession.
  • These treatments are very often prescribed to replace traditional treatments and are subjected to less controls and regulations that medical drugs.
  • Patients are usually tempted by recommendation and previous reported success stories. They stop their usual medical treatment and risk worsening their cancer progression. .
  • These treatments have not usually been proven to be effective in clinical trials

Why are these medicines so popular?

Cancer patients often turn to alternative therapy options for many reasons, some of which are outlined below:

Patients feel unheard

Patients often find it difficult to express their feelings and concerns about their daily life to medical specialists either due to poor communication or lack of time in appointments.

"Natural" treatment

The majority of the patients are attracted by these natural treatments because they believe that they will be less aggressive, and hence have less side-effects.

This is not true - some plants can cause dangerous reactions and be contraindicated with cancer drugs.

Patient choice

With these other treatments, patients are able to make their own decisions regarding treatments and hence feel more in control of their disease.

Concerns with current treatment

Patients obviously become very concerned when medication fails or has unbearable side-effects. This is when they are most vulnerable and open to other suggestions.

Advice before considering treatment

  • Do not stop the treatments which are advised to you by qualified medical teams and inform them of any new tablets as soon as possible.
  • Talk to your doctor - it is vital that the doctors are aware of any concerns and side effects that you may have regarding your current medication, as there may be a different drug or an easy solution .
  • Try not believe hear-say and treatments recommended by friends or family without looking at actual evidence of studies and drug trials.
  • Do not buy medication over the internet without checking the reliability of the source and ingredients first.

Which attitude should doctors adopt?

The medical profession is becoming more and more open to the role complementary and alternative medication in the treatment of cancer.
Hopefully, they will be able to provide you with some valuable advice and guidance.
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