MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

These days, there is so much hype about alternative cancer treatments that it is hard to find a cancer patient who is not tempted to try this or that alternative medicine. Often it is employed without the knowledge of the oncology team, solely on the advice of non-medically qualified practitioners (NMPs). But is that wise? The aim of this survey was to find out.

Members of several German NMP-associations were invited to complete an online questionnaire. The questionnaire explored areas such as the diagnosis and treatment, goals for using complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), communication with the oncologist, and sources of information.

Of a total of 1,500 members of the NMP associations, 299 took part in this survey. The results show that the treatments employed by NMPs were heterogeneous. Homeopathy was used by 45% of the NMPs, and 10% believed it to be a treatment directly against cancer. Herbal therapy, vitamins, orthomolecular medicine, ordinal therapy, mistletoe preparations, acupuncture, and cancer diets were used by more than 10% of the NMPs. None of the treatments were discussed with the respective physician on a regular basis.

The authors concluded from these findings that many therapies provided by NMPs are biologically based and therefore may interfere with conventional cancer therapy. Thus, patients are at risk of interactions, especially as most NMPs do not adjust their therapies to those of the oncologist. Moreover, risks may arise from these CAM methods as NMPs partly believe them to be useful anticancer treatments. This may lead to the delay or even omission of effective therapies.

Anyone faced with a diagnosis of CANCER is understandably keen to leave no stone unturned to bring about a cure of the disease. Many patients thus go on to the Internet and look what alternative options are on offer. There they find virtually millions of sites advertising thousands of bogus cancer ‘cures’. Others consult their alternative practitioners and seek help. This new survey shows yet again that the advice they receive is dangerous. In fact, it might well be even more dangerous than the results imply: the response rate of the survey was dismal, and I fear that the less responsible NMPs tended not to reply.

None of the treatments listed above can cure cancer. For instance, homeopathy, the most popular alternative cancer treatment in Germany, will have no effect whatsoever on the natural history of the disease. To claim otherwise is criminally irresponsible.

But far too many patients are unaware of the evidence and of the dangers of being misled by bogus claims. What we need, I think, is a major campaign to get the word out. It would be a campaign that saves lives!

9 Responses to Alternative practitioners often endanger the lives of cancer patients

  • It seems that they forgot the impressively effective (for the quacks peddling it) orange and parsley extracts, as mentioned in Sanfte Medizin und satte Gewinne.

  • I’m not so sure I am all that worried about people who do these altie treatments for cancer. Most have been told it’s of no use, so why feel sorry for them–beyond the normal compassion for their unfortunate illness, that is?

    The people I have known who went the altie path at least left this world having caused their friends who were previously true believers, to pause and question the treatments. Of course, there are always those who will cling on and blame the patient, say the treatment wasn’t done correctly, or that the patient didn’t believe enough, but at least some will wake up and see the reality–that is what happened in my little Wootown, anyway, after a string of cancer deaths.

  • Alternative practitioners not only endanger lives, they are sometimes even quite helpful in putting an end to lives

    The most incredible part of this terrible story is that the chiropractor in question was not made liable for the death.
    He (thought he) was using applied kinesiology to find out whether the deceased had peanut allergy/intolerance. It involves taking in the suspected food and then assessing a change in muscle strength. AK is based on pure imagination as we well know.
    You have to be seriously ignorant of how dangerous allergies are, to do something like this. The man who died had a previous history of serious allergic reactions and was avoiding peanuts since childhood. This should have alerted any real health-worker to a serious risk of peanut allergy. The chiropractor obviously had no idea what he was dealing with. He did not even have the means or the knowledge to save his poor customer, which he probably could have had he possessed the proper medical knowledge and training.
    Does it free him from responsibility that he was ignorant?? Apparently the coroner’s court thought so.

    What irritates me to no end is that the chiropractor is titled “Dr”. To me that is paramount to fraud.

  • In the U.S., over 500,000 unfortunate and vulnerable cancer patients die each year from being ‘treated’ with a few rounds of proprietary chemo formulas and radiation from the non-holistically qualified, medically indoctrinated allopaths (NHMIAs) without any help from holistic practitioners.

    While some may turn to the non-toxic methods AFTER going through a few rounds of very profitable chemo and radiation from the NHMIA trade it is still a tiny fraction of a percent of the half-million who are referred for the officially recognized and accepted medical interventions from the NHMIA trade who end up succumbing without the help of less toxic methods.

    Here in the U.S., most cancer patients don’t get the chance to try non-radiation and and non-chemotherapeutic approaches.

    Again, to me, it seems that this ‘blog’ entry is using an elephant gun to take aim at the flea on the bull’s back and ignoring the out-of-control raging bull in the china shop.

    • This terrifying post is evidence of a sad reality.
      I put my hope in Hanlon’s razor and hope this ridiculous nonsense is due to ignorance and intellectual debility, not greed and lack of empathy and caring, which are the alternative explanations.
      The person hiding behind the pseudonym “SkepdicProf” obviously does not know the first thing about healthcare, cancer and modern medicine but lives in a terrible delusion of grandeur.
      I sure hope this person does not lure and sell his/her services to any unfortunate and vulnerable cancer patients.

    • Well since you put it that way, perhaps derp.

  • It may be fair to say ‘current evidence does not suggest any of these treatments can cure cancer’, but you make a concrete statement above that none of them can, which seems unscientific to me. There is some interesting research going on into very specific acupuncture techniques here for example: http://www.xinglininstitute.org/current-research.html

    Keeping an open mind seems to me to be a fundamental necessity for good science. There is clearly a lot of dangerous nonsense out there regarding cancer, which should rightly be condemned, but cancer patients are not served well by dismissing lines of enquiry.

  • Here is a really well written and useful article outlining and defusing the metastatic myths of alternative cancer cures:

    http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2014/03/24/dont-believe-the-hype-10-persistent-cancer-myths-debunked/

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