Alternative medicine

A third of people with cancer use alternative medicine

Aalmost a third of cancer patients use alternative medicine – but many of them don’t tell their doctors, according to a new search letter Posted in JAMA Oncology.

Complementary and alternative therapies are those that people use in addition to or instead of traditional medical care. Of approximately 3,100 cancer patients who answered questions about cancer and the use of complementary therapies in the 2012 National Health Survey, just over 1,000 said they had used one or more of these therapies in the past year, the research letter states. Of these, about a third said they had not told their doctor they were using alternative therapies.

This is potentially a problem, since alternative therapies may pose health risks, especially if people stop conventional treatments and continue them. And some complementary therapies — like herbal supplements, which were taken by more than a third of people using alternative methods — aren’t well-regulated and can interact badly with conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. warn doctors. High levels of antioxidants can interfere with radiation, for example, and herbal supplements can become dangerous when mixed with certain prescription drugs.

However, some alternative therapies are widely recommended by oncologists. Mind-body interventions such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and mindfulness, which were each used by around 7% of patients, can keep people fit and energized during their treatment, reduce side effects traditional therapies and improve patients’ sleep, stress and stress. and mental health. Many hospitals even have alternative medicine centers that offer these programs.

Besides supplements and mind-body therapies, people were more likely to turn to chiropractors, osteopaths, and massage therapists for alternative interventions. A small number have also used things like acupuncture, energy therapy, or homeopathic treatments. Although some research shows that acupuncture can relieve pain, there is very little evidence to support practices such as Reiki (energy healing). A large review of homeopathy studies in 2015 found that the practice did not have enough evidence to support its effectiveness.

White, female and younger people were more likely than other cancer patients to use complementary therapies, the research letter says.

Patients turn to alternative medicine for many reasons, including “persistent symptoms, psychological distress, or to gain a sense of control over their care,” the researchers write. And while some complementary therapies can help with these issues, patients should always discuss their choices with a doctor to make sure they won’t jeopardize their overall care.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]