If you arrived at this page, you are probably wondering what your cancer treatment options are. Most patients don't think they have a choice; their doctor sits them down and tells them the recommended protocol, and they don't offer any other 'options'. Many patients like it this way. It's comforting to let someone else be in charge when you're going through so much emotionally and physically. It's comforting to have a team of experts taking care of you when you're at your weakest. But there are definitely patients who want to know their options - this page is for them.
Photo credit: Pixabay
If you google 'Alternative Cancer Treatment', you'll get hundreds of results. It would be hard to read them all and understand what is legitimate science, and what is a scam. While you do have some time to research, you don't have time to become an expert on alternative treatments, so the stressful days after a cancer diagnosis may not be the best time to make radical decisions about your treatment.
Conventional, Complementary, and Alternative Cancer Treatment
Before we go too far into what 'options' you have for cancer treatment, it's good to understand what the different treatment classifications are.
Conventional Cancer Treatment
Conventional cancer treatment are the main protocols recommended by your doctors, and are usually covered by insurance companies. These are the treatments tested through clinical trials, regulated by the FDA, and have years of data collected to determine statistics associated with survival based on your specific cancer diagnosis.
Complementary Cancer Treatment
Complementary cancer treatments are generally offered alongside conventional treatment. For example, the use of vitamin A with colon cancer will help protect against a relapse after the main cancer has been treated. Or, there may be complementary treatments like acupuncture to relieve pain. Complementary treatments can be anything to help improve the outcome, or anything to relieve the side effects of treatment.
Alternative Cancer Treatment
Alternative cancer treatments are given in place of conventional treatment. These are treatments often sought by patients with extremely advanced stages of cancer, where conventional treatments may not work, or if conventional treatments may not extend life long enough to make the side effects of treatment worthwhile.
It is because of this extreme case that you often hear about miracles with alternative cancer treatments. Stage IV cancer patients living much longer than expected, using non-toxic therapies. This can happen, and these are great options to explore when you have no other choice. That doesn't mean that these alternative treatments are good options for all patients, and unless you are an expert in the field, it might be hard for you to know which alternative treatment would work for you, and which one would need more trials to be proven effective and safe.
If you are thinking about doing complementary or alternative cancer treatments, this is a time to work with experts who understand cancer and how to treat it.
Talk to Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor about treatment options within your medical team. There may be clinical trials for exactly the type of rare cancer that you have. Talk to your doctor about more than just treating the cancer. Talk about side effects: your appetite, are you eating enough? Talk about your energy during the day or your sleep at night. Talk about stress, anxiety and just getting through the day. Your doctor is there to make the process as comfortable as possible. This is why I encourage you to meet with a few doctors to find one you really feel good about working with.
Find a Naturopathic Doctor
The best way to explore your options is to work with a Naturopathic Doctor. A Naturopathic Doctor will consider your conventional treatment options, but also can test your immune system and recommend complementary treatments to improve your survival as well as ease the side effects of regular treatment.
Work with a Cancer Consultant
There are experts out there who can guide you through all of your choices. Especially if you are considering an alternative path, you need to talk to someone who knows about your specific cancer, and what options are best for your situation. An excellent choice for this is Ralph Moss PhD. who has literally written the book on the risks of conventional treatment and the numerous alternative treatments being researched, and utilized throughout the world.
If you are reading about a promising new treatment, look carefully at how the data is presented. Every few months, a news article claims that some team of scientists have FOUND A CURE for cancer. But just because the science is sound, it doesn't mean a cure has been found. Scientists make discoveries, and then it's a long process to test for efficacy (will it do what they hope it will do), and toxicity (are the side effects dangerous).
Humans or Mice
Often, you read something promising that has only been tested on mice. There's a big difference between a breakthrough that works on mice, and one that is proven effective for humans. Any study that shows promise on mice, is worth keeping an eye on, but it is probably many years before you'll see results of human trials.
Many reports contain misleading data. Sometimes they'll lump in the normal expected survival in with the data for their given treatment. For example, if cancer xyz has a 5 year survival rate of 90%, the report may not mention that when it says the 5 year survival rate using their treatment is 92%, leading some people to think it's a miracle. Or, more typical, they'll say it increases your survival by 20% - because they are only calculating the change from normal survival to their treatment, instead of overall survival vs survival with treatment (which would be 2%).
Of course, for many patients, ANY increase in cancer survival is worth it. But if the side effects of treatment will make you more prone to other cancers (like leukemia), or heart disease (which is the leading cause of death in the US, above cancer), you may want to reconsider the benefit of 2% overall. Especially, when studies show exercise has a 5% improved survival for many cancers.
It's important to study the data, including data about any recommended conventional treatments. Learn about side effects, even if you plan to go ahead with a course of treatment, you can work to minimize side effects if you have the information.
Who is Promoting the Information?
Another important question to ask when reading information about alternative treatments is WHO is promoting the information? If you are reading about miracle cures, on a site that sells a cancer-fighting tea, then they are trying to sell tea. If you are reading about miracle cures on a website that sells 'all natural supplements', they are selling you something. You really don't have the money or time to be a guinea pig for someone else's get-rich scheme. You can probably assume any website selling a 'miracle' is too good to be true - meaning, it's not true at all. It may contain small amounts of some things that fight cancer, but it won't be in therapeutic doses - and if it was, you should be working with your doctor, and getting high quality medical-grade supplements.
That said, there are legitimate researchers out there that are offering information about their findings. They may share information about cancer patients who have survived longer than expected, or heart disease patients who have turned things around. These are compelling stories of what some people have experienced.
Often this is the beginning, and the researchers are collecting data as they go. Or, in the case of the Forks Over Knives authors, research began in the lab (on mice), moved to the entire country of China (examining the relationship between diet and cancer), and continued as they worked with individuals who were desperate to change. Are they promoting an alternative cancer treatment? I don't think so. Their argument is that a healthy diet can prevent lots of disease - that's different than treating cancer with diet. But it's interesting, and worth learning what they are doing. They are not selling you a scam based on quack science - they are sharing their research and experiences, even if it hasn't been packaged as a marketable drug.
These are the stories worth listening to, as you learn about your own journey through cancer, toward a more healthy state. We're not just fighting cancer - we're restoring our body to a healthy state, where the cancer doesn't want to come back.
So, don't panic. Learn about your options. Ignore the noise. You'll get through this!