Cancer is increasing in incidence all over the world and especially in developing countries like India, accounting for many deaths and human suffering. Considerable research is ongoing and the treatment options are also increasing with resultant benefit to patients. Due to huge escalation of cost and non availability of facilities,  many people are unable to receive the treatment. Due to various reasons including faith, high cost of standard treatmen, recommendations from friends and relatives,  some patients seek either alternative or complementary therapy with or without standard allopathic therapy.

First let us understand the meaning of these terms, so that there is no confusion.

  • Standard treatments are based on scientific evidence from research studies.
  • Complementary medicine refers to treatments that are used with standard medical treatments, like using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.
  • Alternative medicine refers to treatments that are used instead of standard medical treatments. Example is Ayurvedic or homeopathic or some traditional medicine.
  • Integrative medicine is a total approach to care that combines standard medical treatment with the CAM practices that have been shown to be safe and effective. One of the. classical example is yoga with anti cancer treatment.

Complementary and alternative medicine together are refereed to as CAM. 

It is vital to understand that some of CAM have been very old and have their own science or way of understanding. They cannot  or should be disregarded but viewed with a respect. Using both sciences or mixing the medicines is hardly understood as the trials have not been done testing them together.

Standard treatment from Allopathic science is mostly based on evidence based experience. It means that many researchers have used it in the past in many number of patients and found to be beneficial. Statistical tests are done to know if the benefit occurred  by chance or due to the new drug.

Complementary Therapy

There are many complementary methods you can safely use along with standard treatment to help relieve symptoms or to ease pain. Even if they aren’t fully tested, you can choose methods that don’t usually cause harm and won’t interfere with your cancer treatment. In these, usually there is no medicine to be consumed apart from the oils used for massage. It is always advisable to consult both the doctors prior to use of the combinations.

Here are few examples :

  • Massage Therapy
  • Aroma Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Musical therapy and so on.

Alternative Medicine

Many sceinces of medicine exist all over the world, being an ancient science pracised over many centuries, such as country specific traditional medicines, homeopathic, ayurvedia, unani, Chinese, herbal and so on. For convenience sake they all referred to as alternative medicine but we must realise that each is an individual entity.

A patient has every right to choose his way of getting treated and fair thing is to respect the decision rather than ridicule the patient or the medical science adopted.

Using a Complementary or Alternative Method Is Your Decision.

Here we are not going to discuss which medical science is better but to discuss whether we should combine the allopathic medcines with medicines of various sciences without understanding the implications and discuss some common beliefs/statements/myths  that prevail.

  1. The treatments are assumed to be safe and Alternative treatment does not have any side effects:

Alternative treatment of any kind is likely to have some side effects of varying degrees, which depends upon the constituents of the medicines.

  • The treatment can be given together with allopathic medcines

There is no understanding of the combination of these two lines of medicines, their interactions, efficacy, despite some unsubstantiated claims. There have been reports and cases where side effects of unanticipated degrees or bone marrow suppression was found with combinations.

It is not advisable to combine both without understanding the possible effects.

  • Alternative medicines have been proven to be beneficial in many patients.

There can be truth in it. Several allopathic medicines also orginate from plants or natural sources like traditional or alternative medicines. Current practice of medicine is ‘based on evidence’ hence it is advisable to have sufficient proof prior to consumption. The proof of efficacy for current allopathic medicines are through a very long and tedious process of lab studies, experimental animals, human trials which takes may years of research and hard work. It will be risky to use without proving it.

  • They reduce the side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

One cannot deny it that it is possible as we know that many traditional methods help in reliving symptoms of various kinds. But prior to use the benefit must be substantiated through clinical trials. We need to understand that combination does not harm in any way. If proven to be benficial, a widespread use can be initiated and may bring down the cost of care.

  • They cure cancers of all kinds  in all patients !

Cancer is a very complicated disease to understand and manage. It is unclear if the cancer, its origin, biology, mechanisms are understood by other sciences the way the current tmedcial science does. One is not sure if the disease of ‘cancer’ was existing at the time of origin of the alternative medicine and if anticancer therpaies were thought of. Current science is still far away from a complete solutions to all cancers. Therefore it is difficult to believe that all cancers be cured by the alternative medicines.

There are papers in the literature of shorter life span of cancer patients with alternative medicine is used instead of current tstandards. One big concern is that, with alternative treatments, the delay in mainstream treatment can allow the cancer to grow and spread to other parts of the body. Another is that some complementary and alternative therapies have been reported to cause serious problems or even deaths. Even so, most of these problems are not reported to the the drug authorities or USFDA by the patient or family, so no one else hears about them. 

It is quite possible that AM can be beneficial in cancer but clinical trials must be done to understand the benefit, side effects etc. in sufficient number of patients to eliminate the ‘chance effect.’

Good research studies take time, effort and money

It is hard for some people to believe that the treatments their family and friends recommend have no proof that they work. They may hear convincing stories of a person who was told they had cancer, then, after using this treatment, the patient was cured and healthy again. Everyone wants to believe these hopeful stories. But stories about amazing cures cannot be thought of as evidence that a treatment works. Most of the time, there’s no way to be sure the stories are true.

Controlled human studies (Clinical Trials) are the best way to find out if a treatment works.  Prior to the clinical trials, lot of laboratory work  followed by experimental animals is required. It takes time and money to get careful clinical trials done. How long a clinical trial takes depends partly on what’s being tested. For instance, it may take several years to show that a treatment helps survival, but only a few months to show that it helps nausea related to chemotherapy. To pove the survival benefit, usually few thousands of patients need to participate in the trials for a period of decade or so as per the current  standards.

It is common to find much less high-quality, objective information about complementary and alternative methods than about mainstream treatments. This is one of the reasons that it is sometimes impossible to say much about whether a complementary method is likely to help you, or even how safe it might be. To learn more about any treatment, please call us to find out what information we have to help you make your decision, or visit our website at http://cancercuretoday.com/.  

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