Some people turn to alternative medicine Overview of Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine Integrative medicine and health (IMH) and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) include a variety of healing approaches and therapies that historically have not been included in conventional... read more , including certain medicinal herbs, to treat their cancer, instead of or in addition to standard treatment. However, most types of alternative medicine have not been subjected to careful scientific studies. Thus, very little is known about the effectiveness of alternative medicine in treating cancer.
People may also use forms of alternative medicine to help manage the side effects of cancer Paraneoplastic Syndromes Paraneoplastic (associated with cancer—see also Overview of Cancer) syndromes occur when a cancer causes unusual symptoms due to substances that circulate in the bloodstream. These substances... read more and cancer treatment. For example, acupuncture Acupuncture Acupuncture, a therapy within traditional Chinese medicine, is one of the most widely accepted CAM therapies in the Western world. Licensed practitioners do not necessarily have a medical degree... read more may help prevent the nausea that sometimes accompanies chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. Although an ideal drug would destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells, most drugs are not that selective. Instead, drugs... read more . Yoga and stress reduction Relaxation Techniques Relaxation, a type of mind-body medicine, includes practices specifically designed to relieve tension and stress. The specific technique may be aimed at the following: Controlling the stress... read more techniques may help people manage the anxiety of a cancer diagnosis. Use of marijuana and other related substances (cannabinoids) has been legalized in some states mainly as palliative care to treat pain, relieve nausea, and improve appetite in people with advanced cancer.
Although benefits of alternative medicine for cancer have not been scientifically proven, there is significant potential for harm because
The alternative medicine may be toxic.
The alternative medicine may interact with standard treatment, such as chemotherapy or medicine that people take for other disorders, thus reducing its effectiveness.
The alternative medicine may be costly, reducing the person’s ability to afford standard treatment.
If alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatment or delays standard treatment, the person will not obtain the proven benefits of standard treatment.
People using alternative medicine should inform their doctor. Hiding the use of alternative medicine could be harmful.