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    Be Smart About Integrative Medicine

    How to Avoid Scams

    Have you been tempted by supplements or diets that claim to cure cancer? It sounds great, especially if you know your doctor supports the use of some complementary therapies. But for the most part, these are bad news. At best, they’re a waste of money. At worst, they can harm you.

    To help protect yourself, the FDA warns you to beware of these common claims attached to some diets and over-the-counter pills:

    • Treats or cures a wide range of problems    
    • Delivers quick results
    • Is a miracle cure, scientific breakthrough, or secret ingredient
    • Treats all cancer types
    • Kills cancer cells
    • Works better than chemotherapy
    • Says drug companies or the government want to hide information about a cure
    • Offers personal stories from people who were cured or healed

    More Red Flags

    Your doctor should know about every over-the-counter supplement you take or want to take. This will help you skip any that might keep your cancer treatment from working like it should.

    Avoid these supplements. There’s no proof they can cure or improve cancer, no matter what the label says. They won’t help and they might even hurt:

    • Essiac
    • Ginseng
    • Green tea
    • Flor Essence tea
    • St. John’s wort
    • Mistletoe

    These may not be harmful, but there’s no proof that they can help fight cancer, either:

    • Coenzyme Q10
    • Hydrazine
    • Shark cartilage
    • Shiitake mushroom extract
    • Thymus extract

    Other Smart Strategies

    It makes sense to research these treatments online before you make them a part of your cancer care plan. To make sure you’re getting good information, ask yourself these questions.

    • Who funds the website? Look for government-run sites (.gov), educational websites (.edu), and nonprofit organizations (.org). They aren’t funded by supplement companies, drugmakers, or individual health care experts trying to promote their brand. One legitimate website, run by the National Institutes of Health, is the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.  
    • Is the information current? Reliable health and medical content should be regularly reviewed. Look for dates on articles or a medical review date.  
    • Am I reading facts or opinion? Facts should be supported by research, like articles published in journals. Be wary of personal stories (you might see them called testimonials). These claims don’t count as evidence and may not reflect what the science shows.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on July 20, 2021
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