Trying Chinese herbs is known as cancer alternative therapy

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Trying Chinese herbs is known as cancer alternative therapy

Posted By Lillian Tong     Sep 4    


Some patients choose to forgo or delay medical treatment for cancer in favor of alternative therapies.

Skyler Johnson, MD, former chief resident in radiation therapy at Yale School of Medicine, knows first-hand what it's like to experience fear and confusion when a family member is diagnosed with cancer. His wife, Laurie, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 27. Dr. Johnson, who was still in medical school review at the time, typed her diagnosis into Google and was bombarded with claims of a miraculous cancer "cure.

Fortunately, Dr. Johnson was a member of the Yale Copper Cancer Research Center who had the medical training to recognize a good source of cancer research. But, he and his colleagues worry, many people inundated with cancer diagnoses don't.

"This is a worrying trend," he said. "Some patients choose to forgo or delay cancer treatments that have been shown to extend life and/or cure cancer in favor of unproven treatments."

Patients are looking for alternative answers, trying Chinese herbs, vitamins, minerals, meditation, tai chi, yoga, bee venom and extreme dieting. Trying these non-medical approaches instead of traditional, doctor-recommended cancer treatments (chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy) is known as natural cures for cancer. The use of these non-medical methods in addition to medical treatments recommended by a doctor is called cancer complementary therapy. According to one study, an estimated 48% to 88% of cancer patients report using complementary therapy.

"Many patients who use complementary and alternative drugs to treat their cancer believe that their use will improve survival," said James Yu, MD, a radiation oncologist at Yale School of Medicine at Yale Cancer Center. .

However, the Yale study suggests that the opposite is true.

Dr. Yu and Johnson, along with Yale School of Medicine internist Cary Gross (MD) and radiation oncologist Henry Park (MD, MPH), published a study in JAMA Oncology, Survival rates were compared between patients using complementary cancer therapy and those using only medically recommended cancer therapy. They studied 1,290 cancer patients with breast, prostate, lung or colorectal cancer in the National Cancer Database and compared 258 patients using complementary drugs to 1,032 patients who did not.

They found that patients who chose to use complementary medications during cancer treatment were also more likely to reject certain aspects of traditional cancer treatment recommended by their doctors. Their refusal to take at least some of the recommended cancer treatments was associated with an overall higher risk of death compared to those who did not use complementary medications at all. Those most likely to choose complementary cancer treatment tend to be women, younger, wealthier, well educated and privately insured.