Alternative Therapies Popular With Breast Cancer Patients

| October 1, 2012 | 0 Comments | 15 views

Aug. 17, 2000 - Visits to chiropractors and acupuncturists, andthe use of vitamins, herbal remedies, and massage, are becoming increasinglyimportant options to breast cancer patients, according to a new survey.


But the survey's researchers stress that such complementary andalternative medicine should remain just that, an option, and should not be usedat the expense of conventional treatment. Apparently, many women in the surveyfelt the same way.


"Our interviews ... show that no one refused conventionaltherapy, and that the women are most likely to seek complementary therapiesafter they have concluded conventional therapy," lead researcher HeatherBoon, PhD, tells WebMD. Boon is assistant professor in the department of healthadministration at the University of Toronto.


The study, which appears in the July issue of the Journal ofClinical Oncology, found that two-thirds of the 411 breast cancer patientswho answered a questionnaire used some sort of complementary or alternativemedicine during or after their conventional treatment. The reasons most oftencited were to assist the body's natural forces to heal, to boost the immunesystem, to enhance quality of life, to assist other treatments, and to relievesymptoms of their illness and treatment.


Only about half the patients said they discussed such treatmentwith their doctors, and researchers believe more communication between patientsand physicians is needed. Alternative therapies can often be helpful, but someare at best ineffective, and at worst dangerous.


"Clinicians really need to start talking with patients andasking them in a nonjudgmental way about these therapies while they are takingroutine histories," Boon says. "The biggest concern when it comes toalternative therapies is the possibility of negative interactions betweenconventional medications and oral alternative medicines. Physicians need toknow when their patients are taking these so [they] can monitor [it]."


According to the survey, patients' choices of alternativetherapies, in order of preference, were: vitamins and minerals, herbalremedies, green tea, diet, essiac (an herbal tea), body work, meditation, andshark cartilage.


In order of popularity, patients most often visited these typesof alternative practitioners: chiropractors, herbalists, acupuncturists,naturopathic practitioners, reflexologists, touch therapists, homeopathicpractitioners, physicians offering complementary and alternative therapies,faith healers, and others.


In an editorial accompanying the study, Harold J. Burstein, MD,PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, summarizes the reasonscomplementary and alternative medicine has enjoyed increasing popularity. Thelist is long. He writes that an expanding health consciousness, a thrivingmarketplace, the easing of regulations on dietary supplements, the burst ofinformation available through mass media and the Internet, a growing socialacceptance, and last, but not least, a disillusionment with conventionalmedicine all play a part.


Doctors should consider consumer interest in complementary andalternative medicine "a challenge to be better doctors ... an opportunityto ... [focus] on the genuine needs of cancer patients that neither surgery norradiation nor chemotherapy can satisfy," Burstein writes. "[Seekingalternative treatment is] often not about cancer treatment but about feelingbetter and about having greater control over one's destiny."

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