Alternative Therapies Popular With Breast Cancer Patients
WebMD News Archive
In an editorial accompanying the study, Harold J. Burstein, MD,
PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, summarizes the reasons
complementary and alternative medicine has enjoyed increasing popularity. The
list is long. He writes that an expanding health consciousness, a thriving
marketplace, the easing of regulations on dietary supplements, the burst of
information available through mass media and the Internet, a growing social
acceptance, and last, but not least, a disillusionment with conventional
medicine all play a part.
Doctors should consider consumer interest in complementary and
alternative medicine "a challenge to be better doctors ... an opportunity
to ... [focus] on the genuine needs of cancer patients that neither surgery nor
radiation nor chemotherapy can satisfy," Burstein writes. "[Seeking
alternative treatment is] often not about cancer treatment but about feeling
better and about having greater control over one's destiny."
The Ontario study further documents "the communication gap
that separates patient practices from physician awareness," Burstein adds.
"Oncologists might be surprised to find just how common [the use of
alternative therapy] is, because we tend to not ask about it."
Anne Wallace, MD, a surgical oncologist and director of the
Breast Care Unit at the University of California, San Diego, agrees.
"I'd encourage patients to discuss these things with their
doctors and feel comfortable in doing so," she tells WebMD. "If your
doctor gives you a funny look when you mention [alternative therapies], maybe
it's not because he or she disapproves of what you're doing, but because he or
she is learning about these things, too. In the next decade, we will probably
learn a lot about complementary and alternative medicine."
Wallace also advises patients seeking alternative therapies to
go to reputable health centers and practitioners, and to remember that many
herbs are actually drugs that can interact with other medications.