Cancer and alternative therapies: Tips to consider

Alternative or Complementary Medicine consists of treatments whose efficacy has not been scientifically proven. In recent times alternative therapies have become more popular and a lucrative business for many. Unfortunately, many cancer patients rely on these unproven therapies to cure their disease. Living with a life-threatening condition makes people particularly vulnerable to therapies that promise to cure cancer in an “alternative way”. While some of these therapies might help patients improve their wellbeing –but never cure-, there is the danger that the patient abandons the treatment prescribed by the oncologist, as some pseudoscientific “gurus” recommend. It has happened before. We have seen many people –including celebrities- dying because they relied on natural remedies to cure cancer.

Medicine pills
Medicine pills

If you are using an alternative therapy you should be aware that it might not be safe and it could interfere with the treatment prescribed by your oncologist.

Here are some recommendations you should consider:

 Alternative therapies do not cure cancer. We should all be aware of the limitations of these type of treatments. While in some cases they can improve our wellbeing, their efficacy has not been proved and are not in any way an effective treatment for cancer.

 Communication with your doctor is vital. If you are taking an alternative therapy you should tell your doctor. It does not mean you have to stop taking it but it is important that your doctor is informed in order to make sure the therapy is not interfering with your regular treatment.

The treatment for cancer should be multidisciplinary. It requires the involvement of different medical professionals (oncologists, nutritionists, psycho-oncologists…). Patients should get a comprehensive treatment that improves their health and quality of life. 

To illustrate the risk of using alternative therapies without medical monitoring, we recommend the following videos with Dr.Fátima Cardoso, a breast cancer specialist at Champalimaud Cancer Center in Lisbon (Portugal). She explains the case of a breast cancer patient that showed an impaired liver function. At first it looked like metastasis but it turned out to be an herbal tea that she was taken as an alternative therapy. When she stopped taking it, her liver went back to normal.

Case study: the consequences of hiding complementary treatments from your doctor

Why you shouldn’t hide complementary treatments from your doctor

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