A new study of 1,290 United States cancer patients suggests that people who opt for alternative therapies are “twice as likely” to die. Often, these patients refuse life-saving treatments like surgery or chemotherapy in favor of alternative therapies.
“The reality is despite the fact that many patients believe that these types of unproven therapies will improve their survival and possibly even improve their chances of a cure, there’s really no evidence to support that claim…” said Skyler Johnson of from Yale School of Medicine, lead author of the study.
“Although they may be used to support patients experiencing symptoms from cancer treatment, it looks as though they are either being marketed or understood to be effective cancer treatments,” he added.
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research United Kingdom’s head information nurse, believes that complementary medicine can increase quality of life and wellbeing for some patients.
“But it is important that patients considering them do not see them as an alternative to conventional treatments that have been shown though clinical trials to make a real difference to survival,” he said.
And Arnie Purushotham, director at King’s Health Partners Comprehensive Cancer Centre, believes that there is a clear difference between complementary treatments and alternative therapies.
“The medical community is united in agreeing that alternate therapy is not an effective means of treating cancer patients,” he said.
“However, there is increasing evidence that complementary therapy like acupuncture, yoga and relaxation therapy may be beneficial in alleviating cancer patients’ symptoms like pain and fatigue.”
The findings were published in JAMA Oncology.