Many paediatric oncology patients report use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), and naturopathic ‘doctors’ (NDs) often provide supportive paediatric oncology care. However, little information exists to formally describe this clinical practice. This survey was aimed at filling the gap. It was conducted with members of the ‘Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ (OncANP.org) to describe recommendations across 4 therapeutic domains:
- natural health products (NHPs),
- physical medicine,
- mental/emotional support.
The researchers received 99 responses from practitioners with a wide variance of clinical experience and aptitude to treat children with cancer. 52.5% of respondents stated that they did, in fact, not treat such children. The three primary reasons for this decision were:
- lack of public demand (45.1%),
- institutional or clinic restrictions (21.6%),
- personal reasons/comfort (19.6%).
The 10 most frequently considered NHPs by those NDs who did treat childhood cancer patients were:
- fish-derived omega-3 fatty acid (83.3%),
- vitamin D (83.3%),
- probiotics (82.1%),
- melatonin (73.8%),
- vitamin C (72.6%),
- homeopathic Arnica (69.0%),
- turmeric/curcumin (67.9%),
- glutamine (66.7%),
- Astragalus membranaceus (64.3%),
- Coriolus versicolor/PSK (polysaccharide K) extracts (61.9%).
The top 5 nutritional recommendations were:
- anti-inflammatory diets (77.9%),
- dairy restriction (66.2%),
- Mediterranean diet (66.2%),
- gluten restriction (61.8%),
- and ketogenic diet (57.4%).
The top 5 physical interventions were
- exercise (94.1%),
- acupuncture (77.9%),
- acupressure (72.1%),
- craniosacral therapy (69.1%),
- and yoga (69.1%).
The top 5 mental/emotional interventions were:
- meditation (79.4%),
- art therapy (77.9%),
- mindfulness-based stress reduction (70.6%),
- music therapy (70.6%),
- and visualization therapy (67.6%).
The Canadian authors concluded that the results of our clinical practice survey highlight naturopathic interventions across four domains with a strong rationale for further inquiry in the care of children with cancer.
Personally, I don’t see a ‘strong rationale’ for anything here. I was, however, struck by the fact that about half of the naturopaths (they are NOT doctors!) dare to treat children with cancer. Equally, I was impressed by the list of treatments they use for this purpose; most are pure quackery! Finally, I was struck by the reasons given by those naturopaths who laudably abstained from treating cancer: they did not take this decision because of the lack of evidence that naturopaths and the treatments they like to employ fail to do more good than harm.
Altogether, this survey confirmed my view that naturopaths should not be allowed near children, especially those suffering from cancer.