Alternative cancer treatment refers to any type of treatment that is not recommended as standard cancer care by medical facilities. Alternative cancer treatments include vitamin therapy, acupuncture, reiki, and chiropractic therapy. Standard cancer treatment utilizes methods and medicines that have been tested for safety and effectiveness. Alternative cancer treatments have not been tested or proven, and patients wishing to pursue these methods should proceed with caution.
Reasons for Seeking Alternative Cancer Treatment
There are many reasons that those suffering from cancer may wish to seek alternative forms of treatment. Some simply wish to participate more thoroughly in cancer care. Using alternative cancer treatment that can be self-administered, such as vitamin therapy, may help provide cancer sufferers with a sense of empowerment. This feeling can elevate emotional state, which is critical when treating any life-threatening disease. In situations such as this, alternative cancer treatments are often used in conjunction with standard treatments.
Standard cancer treatments often produce side effects that can be difficult for patients to cope with, such as nausea, pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Alternative cancer treatments may provide some relief for these side effects. Acupuncture is known to relieve nausea and pain. Vitamins may help strengthen immunity and can help patients regain strength and reduce fatigue.
Cancer patients may also seek alternative cancer therapies when standard care has been ineffective, or when there are few standard options left, as in late stage cancers. In these situations, patients may shy away from options that have done more harm than good, and seek options that provide comfort and relief. Since the benefits and safety of alternative cancer treatments have not been proven, this should be done only with the guidance and supervision of a health care professional.
Types of Alternative Cancer Treatment
These methods are based on the belief that the emotional and spiritual state have an effect on the body. Meditation, reiki, musical therapy, and relaxation techniques are sometimes used. Mind-body methods of therapy are mainly derived from Eastern cultures, as are many types of alternative cancer therapies.
Vaccines, hormones, prescription or over the counter drugs, and herbs may be used in this type of treatment. Medical marijuana is increasingly being used in combination with other therapies. Since these drugs are being used in a way that has not been tested for safety, these types of therapies can be dangerous and produce unknown side effects. Patients should use caution and consult with a doctor when using this type of treatment.
Patients may alter diet and lifestyle choices, and begin taking nutritional supplements. Antioxidants may help the body to fight against unnatural cells and strengthen immunity. However, certain supplements can alter the effects of traditional cancer treatments. The supplement St. John’s Wort can decrease the effectiveness of certain cancer medications. While diet can improve overall health and decrease side effects of standard cancer treatments, excessive amounts of some nutrients can be harmful.
Alternative Medical Systems
Homeopathic medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine are all examples of alternative medical systems that are sometimes used to treat cancer. These systems focus on general emotional and physical wellness, rather than specifically targeting the disease. Acupuncture, massage, and similar physical based therapies may be combined with herbal remedies and relaxation techniques in these types of therapies.
Dangers of Alternative Cancer Treatment
In recent years, there has largely been a shift in perspective surrounding alternative cancer treatments. Many patients that are diagnosed with cancer wish to have a more active role in combating the disease. While this can help patients to feel useful and combat emotional complications such as depression, the use of alternative cancer treatment can bring feelings of mistrust of traditional cancer treatments. Patients may deny traditional cancer treatments or withhold information about alternative methods that are being used.
Delaying or denying traditional cancer treatments can allow the cancer to spread and overall health to worsen, lowering the chances of remission or cure. Withholding information from physicians about alternative cancer therapies that are being utilized can lower the effectiveness of prescribed treatments. Physicians may also inadvertently subject the patient to dangerous combinations of drugs and therapies if the patient has been less than forthright about all methods being used. Since alternative cancer treatments have been mostly untested, unknown side effects and dangers may also exist that have not yet been exposed.
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