A new review-study of more than 2 dozen studies published in the past 15 years once again highlights the potential dangers some alternative and complementary medicines can pose to cancer patients. It also underlines the frustration felt by both mainstream oncologists and “alternative” practitioners who try to work together in the best interest of their patients.
This research defined 4 main “risk situations” that pose a threat to patients. Those include:
- Mainstream oncologists and “complementary” practitioners approach cancer care in fundamentally different ways.
- Herbal and other “alternative” remedies pose risks to patients, including contamination, toxicity and the potential for herb/drug interactions.
- Many popular remedies are difficult (or even unethical) to recommend due to a lack of scientific support.
- Conventional oncologists may not be aware of potentially beneficial “natural” remedies while alt-med practitioners are often biased when it comes to proven mainstream cancer treatments.
Are these disconnects between mainstream oncologists and complementary practitioners really that concerning? The authors of this study believe so–and they point out that 65% of American cancer patients, for example, admit to using at least one complementary therapy. Often those therapies are recommended by practitioners who have no actual medical training at all. And sometimes complementary therapies encourage patients to delay seeking mainstream treatment.
But conventional medicine isn’t off the hook, either. Cancer patients who get an, “I don’t know,” or feel patronized when they ask about alternative treatments are less likely to trust their oncologists. This could leave them vulnerable to alt-med providers who “treat” them with unnecessary, expensive and even potentially dangerous quackery.
The authors of this study, which was published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, hope that better communication between oncologists and complementary providers–as well as better communication between patients and their doctors–will help all cancer patients to get the best possible care as promptly as possible.
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