alternative therapy for cancer

Alternative therapy for cancer: does it work?


People who, when diagnosed with cancer, choose alternative treatment rather than conventional treatment, have an overall 2.5 times risk of dying compared with people who choose standard treatments. This was the finding just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (USA).

A person just diagnosed with cancer may be scared and vulnerable, and when a doctor suggests standard therapy—surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or some combination—many people wonder if there might be an easier way, with fewer side effects. This study suggests while alternative might sound better at the time, it is not the best way to go.

One example of alternative cancer therapy

One famous example was Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Computers. He was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in October, 2003. He was fortunate that his form of pancreatic cancer was curable with surgery, but Jobs chose alternative therapies instead. For nine months, he tried a vegan diet, herbs, acupuncture, juice fasts, bowel cleansings, and he even consulted a psychic.

Despite all that, during the 9 months he was on alternative treatments, his tumor grew. He finally decided to undergo the surgery in July, 2004 but by that time the tumor had spread to his liver, and he was incurable. According to Job’s biographer, Walter Isaacson “for nine months he refused to undergo surgery for his cancer—a decision he later regretted as his health declined.”

In the study published by the National Cancer Institute, researchers from Yale University School of Medicine identified 281 people with breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer who chose alternative treatments instead of conventional. They found a gender and age- matched set of 560 people with the same cancers, who instead chose conventional therapies, and followed how each group did in the five-year period after diagnosis.

Alternative therapy per cancer type

The results showed that overall, a person choosing alternative therapy had a 2.5 times higher risk of dying during five years, compared with a person choosing conventional treatment. But the risk depended on type of cancer. For breast cancer, the risk was 5.68 times greater; for lung, 2.17 times greater; for colorectal cancer, 4.57 times greater. Interestingly, for prostate cancer, the risk was not higher for the men who chose alternative treatments. This is because prostate cancer is typically slow growing, and rarely does a person die from prostate cancer within five years of diagnosis.

Looking at the findings in another way, for colorectal cancer as an example, 79% of the people survived five years if they took conventional treatment, but only 33 percent of those opting for alternative treatment survived.

This study strongly suggests that, while conventional treatments for cancer might sound scary, choosing what seems to be a “kinder” treatment is not likely to be nearly as effective. Fortunately, most cancers today are curable, and the trend in conventional cancer therapy is to use less extensive surgeries and lesser doses of chemotherapy. However, a person taking an alternative approach is taking a significantly greater risk.

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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