Patients diagnosed with cancer, especially those found to have late-stage tumor growth, are often terrified and desperate for a solution – for a cure. Many begin searching for a treatment and for a way to get out of this mess. Some have seen family members Who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation and have been left nearly crippled. As such it is understandable that many seek out alternative medicine or alternative therapies.
However, is alternative therapy actually capable of curing or treating cancer? Should you ever forgo western medicine and choose alternative medicine instead? Below we will attempt to answer these questions.
Natural Cancer Cures?
First, it is important to analyze whether products under alternative medicine could actually treat cancer. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reports that products such cannabis oil will most likely not shrink tumors since the few scant preclinical trials done on mice in labs have had at best anecdotal evidence and no real support.
In fact, cannabis oil may even have a negative effect on standard cancer treatment, as the product could keep enzymes from working that metabolize chemotherapy drugs. This could increase toxicity for a patient.
“So far, there are no human studies that show cannabis oil can be used as cancer treatment,” Memorial Sloan Kettering pharmacist and herbalist Dr. K. Simon Yeung explained. “Patients who are using it — or any form of marijuana — should let their doctors know so they can advise you properly.”
Laetrile, a compound extracted from apricot pits, nuts, or plants, has been touted to destroy cancerous cells and keep healthy tissue safe. However, the product has been banned in the United States. While this particular alternative therapy could technically kill cancer cells, it does not leave healthy tissues unharmed. In fact, the “medicine” could make a patient sick or even lead to death.
“Laetrile has not been proven to be effective against cancer and can even be dangerous to some patients,” Dr. Yeung clarified. “If amygdalin is eventually used in an anticancer drug, it will have to be in a different form, because the oral form is toxic and too dangerous to use.”
Clearly, cancer patients should definitely discuss with their physicians whether or not to pursue any alternative medicines like cannabis oil or laetrile, as many may be completely ineffective and could potentially cause harm to the patient.
Could Alternative Medicine Treat Cancer?
Should you ever forego western medicine to pursue alternative therapy when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer? Even if you’ve been dealt a hand with late-stage cancer, the American Cancer Society outlines very clearly that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine are essentially putting themselves at greater risk.
While the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation are very difficult to go through and may themselves put some patients in danger, these are the type of treatments that have been scientifically proven to work while alternative medicine does not go through nearly the same rigorous testing.
Additionally, delays in standard medical treatment likely give tumors additional time to grow and thereby put patients at greater risk of death from the disease even if they choose western medicine after a period of time.
The Risks and Benefits of Complementary Medicine
While completing cutting out standard cancer treatment and western medicine may not be a good idea, complementary medicine or integrating alternative therapies with general medical care does have some upsides.
The National Cancer Institute reports that some forms of complementary medicine have been found to be safe and effective. Others, however, are more harmful or at least ineffective. For example, dietary supplements or herbal supplements could negatively react with certain cancer drugs a patient could be taking. St. John’s wort, for instance, causes certain cancer treatments to work less effectively.
Additionally, herbal supplements taken in large doses could be harmful and may even cause liver damage. Nonetheless, some alternative medicines when used in a complementary manner to standard medical care could be beneficial for patients. In particular, alternative therapies could reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
The Mayo Clinic reports that exercise, massage, yoga, and relaxation techniques could help patients better manage exhaustion. For those who are battling nausea and are dealing with bouts of vomit, trying out aromatherapy, acupuncture, or music therapy could help, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nonetheless, it is important to note that anti-nausea medication assigned by a physician may be stronger and more capable of reducing this particular side effect.
Those suffering from sleep problems or stress are advised to try yoga and exercise while acupuncture and massage could help with physical pain from cancer treatment. It is vital to remember that a healthy, plant-based diet and regular exercise are a necessity when undergoing cancer treatment.
There you have it. While some complementary medicines could be beneficial for patients undergoing cancer treatment, no one should consider foregoing standard medical treatment in favor of alternative medicine.