Cancer & alternative therapies

When my mum was diagnosed with lung cancer she decided chemotherapy was not for her.

Research shows that patients who deal with cancer who use alternative therapies may be more likely to ignore conventional treatments over alternative therapies and could risk their chances of survival. But I think there is more to this. The research does not go far enough.

When my mum chose to go the alternative route, she’d been using alternative therapies for years. I was brought up on alternative treatments such as homeopathy and supplements and taking supplements were an everyday occurrence.

She believed that going down the chemotherapy route would shorten her cancer fight, but she also new the benefits of chemotherapy would bring little comfort and reward, and came at a cost of side effects. My mum wanted a better quality of life whilst she still had life, without having to deal with chemotherapy and its many side effects.

This was mum’s reasoning and her reasoning very much made sense. Perhaps this is why some cancer patients have chosen the alternative therapies over the conventional route.

A study of 1,290 patients in the US, found that people who used alternative therapies often refused chemotherapy or surgery and that fewer patients on alternative treatments survived 5 years, compared to those on the standard treatment.

Alternative therapies which included minerals, vitamins infusions and certain diets were growing in the US, but there was limited research into how effective they were.

The study reported this month in JAMA Oncology, (July 2018) looked at 258 patients who had used these therapies with at least one standard treatment, compared to 1,032 who only received conventional care.

The study found a smaller proportion of those who received such treatment had survived five years after beginning treatment – 82.2% compared to 86.6%.

Separately, they were found to be more than twice as likely to die at any point over the course of the nine-year study, as a result of either refusing or delaying standard treatment.

Comparing people who received alternative therapies with those who did not, the report found:

  • 34% refused chemotherapy compared to 3.2%;
  • 53% refused radiotherapy compared to 2.3%;
  • 7% refused surgery compared to 0.1%.

A key point to mention here is that the study looked at people who refused conventional treatment in preference to alternative therapies rather than using alternative therapies in conjunction with conventional treatment.

There is no doubt in my mind that alternative therapies give us a better quality of life, but it’s up to each individual. My mum was more interested in having a better quality of life whilst she was fighting cancer, even if that meant her living a shorter time. She was concerned that wouldn’t happen with conventional treatment.

Source: BBC News July, 2018

3 Aug, 2018

2 thoughts on “Cancer & alternative therapies

  1. The choice of cancer treatment is a hugely personal decision and I won’t comment on anyone’s decision to have conventional or alternative treatments. A decision about one’s quality of life during and after cancer treatment is not my decision to comment on.

    Interestingly the studies you refer to, do not show a huge difference in 5 year survival rates, at less than 5%. As you rightly say, the choice is up to the individual, prevailing circumstances and prognosis.

    1. Thanks. Yes of course. I think sometimes the chemo route is often taken because of pressure from family, I have seen that happen. I think that’s the thing with chemotherapy.

      I also think there is a lot more to chemotherapy than people understand. I also think families need to be told of the side effects and particularly of its long-term use. We weren’t.

      As I outlined in my blog, alternative therapies are a way of life. For my mum nothing else was a consideration. She went into everything with her eyes wide open.

      But as with all decisions, it is of course up to the individual. I agree with that but there should be no pressure from family.

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