Should You Go for Alternative or Complementary Therapy for Cancer Treatment?

About the Author

Lauren Cole is the Content Marketing Strategist of Dayspring Cancer Clinic, an alternative cancer treatment center located in Scottsdale, Arizona. When not working and writing content, she enjoys gardening and reading books.

Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are conventional cancer treatment methods. Cancer patients, however, have the option to undergo therapies and use medical products that don’t fall within the scope of standard cancer treatments. These treatments are categorized as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and they are proving to be in wide use among cancer patients.

The question is, is going for complementary and alternative cancer treatments the right decision for cancer patients?

Complementary and Alternative Therapy Are Not The Same Thing

It’s easy to lump alternative and complementary therapies together since they’re not standard cancer treatments. However, alternative therapies are quite different from complementary ones.

When a specific cancer therapy is labeled as “alternative,” it means it’s being used as a substitute for chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and other conventional approaches to cancer treatment. Eschewing FDA-approved anticancer drugs for a special diet or some type of herbal medication is a primary example of alternative cancer treatment.

On the other hand, complementary cancer therapies are precisely what the phrase denotes: they complement standard cancer treatments. Complementary therapy is often used not only to manage the symptoms that cancer patients experience, but to improve their quality of life as well.

There are times when an oncologist recommends a specific complementary therapy to go with a patient’s conventional cancer treatments. It’s called integrative treatment, which, as the name implies, integrates safe and effective CAM treatments with standard cancer therapies.

Examples of CAM Treatments

Cancer patients who decide to undergo CAM therapies may be asked to take dietary supplements, herbal medicine, and other non-standard medicinal products. It’s also common for them to undergo such treatments as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, and even music therapy. Activities like yoga and visualization are also encouraged.

Reasons Cancer Patients Opt For CAM Treatments

The number of cancer patients opting for CAM therapies has been steadily increasing over the years. According to one study, 85% of cancer patients in the United States admit to CAM use.

Cancer patients use complementary and alternative therapies for a variety of reasons.

Many CAM therapies are purported to help patients deal not only with the symptoms of cancer but the side effects of standard treatments like chemotherapy as well.

Some cancer patients believe that since most complementary and alternative therapies are “natural,” they’re less toxic than conventional therapies. There’s also the immune boost that some CAM practices claim to provide.

Having cancer can be quite stressful, and the focus that many CAM treatments have on helping patients calm down and relax is perceived to be key in relieving themselves of stress.

In many cases, CAM therapies are often used to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. As mentioned above, cancer patients have to endure the symptoms of their disease and the aftermath of chemotherapy, radiation, and other conventional treatments. Proponents of CAM treatments claim they can alleviate the suffering of cancer patients and help give them a better quality of life, even when the battle is nearing the end of the line.

Is CAM Therapy The Right Decision?

Let’s face it: there is no cure for cancer just yet. Even conventional cancer treatments do not guarantee that they can defeat cancer all the time. However, many patients have seen their cancer go into remission after standard treatments, which attest to their efficacy.

Many CAM therapies, on the other hand, are deemed to be generally safe after careful evaluation. Still, more studies and medical trials are needed before they can be definitively regarded as highly-effective cancer treatments.

Then again, if you’re a cancer patient and you’re considering undergoing CAM therapies for any of the reasons mentioned above, then go for it, by all means. After all, whether to go for conventional treatments or CAM therapies is a personal decision that only you have every right to make.

Just keep in mind that if you choose the CAM route, it’s still best to consult your oncologist or your personal physician about it. While doctors can only make recommendations, they can at least educate you about possible contraindications of CAM treatments to your standard medical care. It’s also possible that your doctor might help you find a reliable CAM practitioner for your cancer treatment needs.

About Retire Early Lifestyle

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired three decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. As recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel, they have been interviewed about retirement issues by The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter, nationally syndicated radio talk shows and countless newspapers and TV shows nationally and worldwide. They wrote the popular books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement (Your Simple Path to FIRE) and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.
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