Alternative Medicine Used Worldwide for Cancer
Cancer patients from Bombay to Boston are looking beyond mainstream medicine to treat their disease, and their doctors feel ill-prepared to cope, study findings show. The study analyzes questionnaire responses from 80 members of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC), representing 33 countries.
The majority of the survey respondents were cancer specialists (oncologists). UICC, a nonprofit nongovernmental organization, conducted the study. Most survey respondents said that alternative medicine represented a problem in their country, and many did not feel adequately informed about alternative remedies, Dr. Barrie R. Cassileth of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and her colleagues report in the April 1st issue of the journal Cancer.
In conducting the survey, the investigators sought a global view of complementary and alternative medicine, and also attempted to distinguish between the two. While many past studies have lumped complementary and alternative medicine together, the authors note, they are actually different. "Complementary therapies, such as massage or relaxation methods, are used adjunctively along with mainstream care for symptom management and to enhance quality of life," they write.
"Alternative therapies...are active biologically, often invasive, and typically promoted as cancer treatment to be used instead of mainstream therapy," Cassileth's team points out. "Complementary therapies can be helpful, but alternative medicine, because it can create direct physiologic interference or indirect harm by keeping patients from receiving timely care, presents serious problems to both the oncologist and the patient," the researchers add.
Many alternative treatments are used only in particular countries or geographic areas, the report indicates. Kamateros spring water, for instance, is used in Greece, while mistletoe is used to fight cancer throughout central Europe. Studies have shown that mistletoe can cause redness and itching and does not lead to increased survival.
"Many therapies are associated with a single unconventional practitioner," the authors write. "The treatments reported most often included dietary therapies, shark products, vitamin therapies, and botanicals." Patients in some parts of the world may choose alternative therapies because they don't have access to mainstream medicine, the team notes.
To address the problems revealed in the study, Cassileth and her colleagues suggest that the following will be necessary: "better education to stress the importance of seeking early medical attention and the value of documented cancer therapies, availability of useful therapies to all individuals, and understanding on the part of health professionals and policy makers that patients need to play a meaningful role in their own care."
SOURCE: Cancer 2001;91:1390-1393.
Thanks to Reuters Health
Ann's NOTE: This study demonstrates that an interest in other therapies is a worldwide phenomenon. This can only be attributed to cancer patients discontent with the conventionally offered programs treatment. Also note that Cassileth et al dismiss misteltoe as not useful BUT that is NOT accurate. See studies shown on this site.
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