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Complementary and Alternative Medicine
July 20, 2010
I'm sure many of you have seen books on cancer touting "all-natural cures" and herbal remedies to prevent/treat cancer...and as we know, much of this has not been proven or tested and is certainly not approved by the FDA. But complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, does have its place in health care and cancer treatment. Top cancer centers have CAM departments offering massage, nutritional services, acupuncture/acupressure, and other therapies meant to be used in addition to traditional Western medicine. I am all for this. What scares me are some of these community websites where there is no physician/nurse monitor and misinformation is running rampant, with possible serious consequences.
I used to frequent a website that was a spin-off of a popular author's blog. This author is a young woman diagnosed with a chronic cancer and in her books, promotes a health-centered approach, using juicing, alkaline diets and other alternative methods to keep healthy. She also got treatment at a known cancer center. But when participating in some discussion boards, I saw people telling patients going through chemotherapy not to listen to their doctor's warnings about eating raw foods and fruits and vegetables, and to keep eating it. I could not help myself, I posted that the person should talk to their doctor about it because people on chemotherapy are more susceptible to bacteria and germs on raw food and food that has not been cooked, and that's why their doctor warned against them. Needless to say, it was not taken well.
Other times I would see posters telling other people not to do chemotherapy, that it does not work, that they got rid of their cancer by becoming vegetarian, etc. This might sound implausible, but believe me, it happens. I ended up leaving the web group because it was too upsetting to keep reading this. Another time, I was at a conference for young women with breast cancer and a man presented his holistic health care retreat and promoted an alternative treatment plan. His studies were not statistically significant and were not FDA-regulated. Dr. Patricia Ganz, an oncologist at UCLA, spoke after him, and actually spoke to the crowd, addressing the fact that when faced with a dire prognosis and scared, people are more likely to believe anything, and that it is important to remember evidence-based medicine. She was met with heckling and boos from the crowd, unfortunately.
Alternative and complementary medicine, along with a healthy diet, stress reduction and an active lifestyle are certainly integral parts of healing and treatment...along with the standard Western treatments we have now. Is what we have now enough? No, of course not. But talking with your health care team about integrating CAM into your treatment can ensure your safety and health while still giving you holistic care.
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