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Don’t rely only on complementary medicine for cancer

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Cancer is a curse, and treating it is obviously a thankless job. The hopelessness of the situation understandably leads the patient and care givers to a state of despair which pushes them into illogical behaviour, much like a drowning man clutching at floating straws. Given the high cost and side effects of conventional cancer therapy, there are any number of “cancer specialists” flourishing in the cancer market who promise “cure” using smooth talk and mind manipulation that is at best a placebo and at worst an outright criminal trickery.


Examples of complementary medicine include: Alternative health approaches such as traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy. Mind and body practices like acupuncture, massage therapy, and tai chi. Natural health products like herbs, dietary supplements, and probiotics.


Ironically, cancer patients taking complementary therapy develop a mind block when it comes to conventional therapy and so they flatly refuse to revert to conventional therapy, even if it is alongside complementary measures. Understandably the outcome of such adventurism is disastrous.


Against this backdrop, Dr Skyler Johnson and co-workers from the Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, carried out a cohort study of over a million patients. They observed that the use of complementary medicine varied due to several factors and was associated with refusal of conventional cancer treatment, and with a 2-fold greater risk of death compared with patients who had no complementary medicine use.


This retrospective observational study used data from the National Cancer Database on 1 901 815 patients from 1500 Commission on Cancer–accredited centers across the United States who were diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2013. Patients were matched on age, clinical

group stage, Charlson-Deyo comorbidity score, insurance type, race/ethnicity, year of diagnosis, and cancer type. Use of complementary medicine was associated with poorer 5-year overall survival compared with no complementary medicine and was independently associated with greater risk of death (JAMA Oncology, October 2018; Vol 4: pp 1375-1381).

Complementary medicine, especially for intractable conditions cancer, quickly takes on a cultic hue and the practitioners create an unscientific aura around themselves such as refusal to meet with any rational-minded citizen. They only add to the fan following and cult membership, which becomes more and more dogmatic with the passage of time. It is indeed very important to guard against such persons and practices.

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