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Cancer: Exploring the Alternatives

Cancer: Exploring the Alternatives
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"We can see that people are turning more to complementary therapies to improve their quality of life," says Ades. "Cancer centers are adding integrative medicine programs that offer complementary therapies to their services. And researchers are realizing that these alternatives need to be studied so we know either that they are or aren't effective. We need these answers."

According to Ades, those who typically turn to alternative (as opposed to complementary) therapies, are those who have limited or no standard treatment for their cancer or those who fear the effects of cancer treatment. "Most people want to know that something can be done and if it means turning to an alternative, some will make this choice. They are willing to try an alternative even knowing that it hasn't been through the appropriate clinical trials to prove its safety and effectiveness."

Birdsall won't give his patients a blanket veto when it comes to herbal supplements. But he does want them to know that each individual case is different. "You have to look at the individual parameters," he says. "Breast cancer is different from ovarian cancer which is different from colon cancer which is different from prostate cancer." Even chemotherapy regimens differ from cancer to cancer, from patient to patient.

"What I tell patients varies with what type of cancer they have and what kind of treatment they're undergoing," he says.

And what Brooks tells all cancer patients is, "Be aware that with many of these alternatives, there is no scientific evidence that they can help, and that in some instances, they can actually harm. Talk to your doctor and show him what you're taking -- before you take it."

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Reviewed on October 04, 2002

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