The Growth of Supplemental and Alternative Medicine for Cancer Patients

Interest in Supplemental and Alternative Medicine has grown steadily throughout the United States. Reported usage of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among American Adults is now over 60%. Individuals undergoing cancer treatment and therapy have equally higher rates of usage. CAM activities such as diet, exercise, meditation, and spirituality have become commonly accepted and practiced in health care facilities across the nation.

It is important to remember that no large scale clinical trials have found any alternative or complementary therapies to be able to reduce or eliminate cancer on their own. There are countless anecdotes and personal stories of individuals "beating cancer by simply doing —" but it is advisable for patients to be careful of less than scrupulous CAM practitioners. With that said, many doctors agree that there are numerous CAM therapies that can play a valuable role in helping to manage cancer therapy related symptoms.

Yoga and meditation are two excellent examples of CAM therapies that can play a role in helping to improve a cancer patient's quality of life. Both are ancient practices with roots in India and use in Ayurvedic medicine. In relation to modern cancer care, they each have been found as a great way for cancer patients to reduce anxiety, stress, and mood disorders. Yoga, specifically, has been found to be great for improving flexibility, balance, and range of motion for certain patients. Both Yoga and meditation have seen tremendous growth in terms of public acceptance through the past ten years. Yoga especially has become something of a cultural trend; spawning things such as the yoga pant, yoga body, and yoga mommy. In regards to healthcare, many large health care facilities now offer a wide range of yoga and meditation based classes for a huge variety of patients.

Not every CAM option has been found to be clinically helpful or significant. Many popular forms of "alternative medicine" have little to no large-scale clinical validation. Homeopathy is an ideal example of an extremely popular and main alternative medical practice with virtually no large scale clinical validation. Homeopathy is a complex European medical practice with a wide range of very controversial tenets. Homeopathy is most famous for its law of minimum dose – the idea that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its potency. Most recently, homeopathic practitioners came under popular media fire for recommending homeopathic vaccinations for children rather than state and government recommended vaccinations. When tested, the homeopathic vaccinations were found to be unable to prevent infection of the designated diseases and were thus highly likely to expose children to risk.

In conclusion, cancer patients and their doctors should seek out the most evidence based practices that are the most likely to have a positive effect on their therapies. For health care providers it is important to work to create an environment of trust in which a patient feels comfortable talking about and asking about CAM options. CAM options work best when used in conjunction with conventional medicine and as such it is crucial that health care providers understand the complete treatment picture in order to avoid potentially adverse outcomes.

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