Do alternative cancer treatments work?
In the first few weeks of your diagnosis you may have been weighing up your treatment options while listening to stories of those who bypassed the surgeon’s knife/chemotherapy/radiotherapy, and went straight to “cure” by means of alternative therapies.
I believe we all need to have an open mind about alternative treatments, but I also believe we need to focus on what is working and saving lives when it comes to cancer. While some of those who promote alternative cancer treatments are selling dubious at best, dangerous at worst, products and services to vulnerable people in search of a miracle cure; many others mean well in advocating for alternative health treatments.
But the truth is there is no magic cure.
Crude as it can seem at times, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal treatments are saving lives. These treatments aren’t pleasant, and many of us would much rather opt for an alternative option if we knew it could save us. Unfortunately, there is not as much evidence to support the use of any alternative cancer therapy.
I took full advantage of complementary therapies, like reiki, reflexology and acupuncture during my chemotherapy (while making sure that it didn’t interfere with the conventional medicine my oncologist was using) and I continue to do so as part of my wellness plan. There is nothing wrong with seeking alternative and complementary methods, but doing so without seeking the advice of a trained medical practitioner is not advisable. You deserve the thousands of hours of research and countless hours of training behind your treatment that can only come from the conventional medical community.
What has been your experience with complementary therapies during treatment and do you still continue to use them?
I really agree with you here Marie. It scares me when I read those claims of miracle cures – there is no such thing. As you say, crude as it can seem at times, our best hope is to put our faith in medicine.
I found reflexology a great help during my treatment – especially in helping me deal with anxiety. I intend to keep up with it for the future too.
I had just qualified as a clinical hypnotherapist a couple of months before I was diagnosed and I did find that self-hypnosis helped me to relax whenever I got stressed. I used it in a very proactive way, using imagery to fight the cancer cells and imagine by body being strong and healthy. Although my treatment ended in February, I continue to use self-hypnosis to help me combat the side-effects of Tamoxifen and help me stay well. However, I do agree that complimentary therapies are best used alongside conventional treatment.
Thanks for your comment Palma. I too find hynotherapy a valuable resource when I am feeling stressed and anxious.
Another well balanced post!
I agree Marie. Even though traditional treatment can be overwhelmingly scary I think you have to go with what has proven to work for the majority of the people. I also did some visualizations, meditations, journaling, etc during my treatment and I think that is all very important too, as well as structured therapy with a counselor.
I understand however, for people who perhaps have had a recurrence or who’s cancer has metastasized and for whom traditional treatment was so toxic that is gives them no quality of life, that they may want to seek out options. It is a scary thought to me but for some it may feel like their only hope.
Thanks Debbie for your comment and thanks for pointing out that for some people this may be the right option for them when dealing with end of life issues – I hadn’t thought of that and I appreciate compassion you have added to this post.
There is an “alternative” cancer treatment that cancure cancer, even metastatic cancer, in a reasonable number of cases. It’s called Coley’s toxins and there is good evidence it works. So why is it an “alternative” treatment if it works? That’s a very good question. It should be in wide-spread use, but it isn’t. In fact it is very difficult to find.
There are also several alternative cancer therapies that are unlikely to be curative, but can still be very helpful and can be combined with conventional therapies. One good example is low dose naltrexone.
True, the field is riddled with quackery, hoaxes and snake oil. But some therapies that have been viewed as quackery are no longer so quickly dismissed, e.g. intravenous vitamin C after the NIH found evidence of antitumor properties.
Are things like oncolytic viruses (which can work very well even in metastatic cancer, although is very unlikely to be curative) “alternative” or just “experimental”? It’s a good question. What is certain is that there are dozens of cancer treatments shown to work (most of them safe and inexpensive) that are not widely used, even though they definitely should be.