Complementary & Alternative Therapies

I genuinely believe that there is considerable scope for complementary and alternative therapies to play a large part in the cancer-free journey as an adjunct to conventional medicine. Whilst I cannot advocate the validity or effectiveness of any of the therapies in altering the ultimate prognosis, there are still so many unknowns in medicine that we should not completely dismiss their potential. Merely the fact that the treatments have not undergone rigorous testing in the traditional sense doesn’t mean to say they don’t work. By virtue of the fact that a patient may have benefited from a certain treatment is in a way, a testament that it had a positive benefit for that person, which gives it a certain degree of credibility. After all, it is ultimately about you as an individual and not statistics based on the population that concerns you – whether something works because there is an element of the placebo effect in the grand scheme of things on the individual level is irrelevant (and we can use this effect to our advantage whilst being mindful of the nocebo effect, the exact opposite phenomenon; see here). The difficulties lie in finding the right information, the right therapy, the right combination(s) at the right time and the context to which it is being offered.

That said, there are scam cancer treatments that offer false hope to the vulnerable and it would be best to do some in-depth research and seek a second or even a third opinion (unfortunately your GP will probably not be in a good position to comment unless they have a specialist interest in the field of complementary, alternative, integrated or functional medicine) before deciding on whether to take the plunge on potentially costly treatments that may or may not yield positive results. Taking a holistic approach to treating cancer is a sensible strategy but the term ‘holistic’ should not be taken to imply completely turning one’s back on conventional medicine. I think an integrated approach of combining aspects of alternative & complementary medicine together with conventional medicine is likely to go a long way rather than to keeping to one or the other.


Fake News?

In recent times, we’ve been accustomed to hearing the term ‘Fake News’ and aware that people can to be easily misled into believing fake/fabricated news. The following videos highlight this well but by extension, it reminds us that we need to be cautious when bold claims are made regarding the benefits of certain cancer treatments (especially when that have not be tested in the conventional sense).

Promote Critical Thinking – Look At the Evidence!

In the earlier section on Researching ‘Cancer & Research in Cancer, we talked about how best to approach the the task of conducting your own research and evaluating evidence. When it comes to integrative medicine and its potential benefits to cancer care, a lot of questions arise due to the lack of solid evidence for the true effectiveness of a lot the therapies on offer. A good starting point may be to look at the British Society For Integrative Oncology (UK) and Society For Integrative Oncology (US). The below links will hopefully also aide you in your decision-making process. As mentioned before, the information provided on this website and the various links do not intend to replace the medical advice of your doctor or any other healthcare professional so please make sure to discuss ongoing medical issues with a trained medical professional.

Not To Fall Into A Trap 

It’s all too easy to be lured by the latest and newest headlines e.g. the blockbuster medication or tests that are sold as game-changers. Human instinct is that we tend to want the best especially when it comes to medical care and this no different when seeking tests and treatments for cancer. However, the problem is that what might sound great on paper may in fact be far from it when we come to scrutinise the data and look at the evidence for a certain claim. That said, there are of course times where benefits of certain treatments are well documented yet the mechanisms to which they do so may not be known.

I will go through a couple of examples of novel cancer blood tests found on the internet that on first glance look very promising but quickly fail to offer any conclusive evidence for their clinical claims. (Note: Many of the links have since been taken down)

Complementary & Alternative Medicine Information

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a growing field of medicine and broadly falls into . There are a lot of different types of therapies and one would be forgiven for not having heard of some of the listed therapies before (N.B the list is by no means fully comprehensive). That said, many cancer patients can find certain CAMs help with not only their symptoms but also ease the emotional and psychological burden of cancer. The below are some the more well known websites that focus on alternative medicine, which may be useful depending on where you are on your cancer-free journey. I would however like to make a clear disclaimer that I have no ties with, nor endorse, any of the services offered by these websites/institutions and that they are offered here as information.