Conventional medicine uses three primary techniques to treat cancer: chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Any oncologist (a doctor who treats cancer) will be able to guide your treatment using one or all of these therapies. The treatment selected largely depends on the type of cancer and the stage of development at which it is diagnosed. However, also available are alternative and complementary medicine techniques you can incorporate in conjunction with conventional medicine. The problem is sorting through which treatments are most effective.
Alternative cancer treatments – which ones work, which ones don’t?
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, sometimes friends, family, co-workers, and salespeople begin giving all sorts of advice about alternative treatments: “My cousin used this cream and it cured his cancer.” “I saw this product on TV; you should try it.” While their intentions are well-meaning, it’s often not in your best interest to use these unproven products. In light of this, here are a few guidelines to help you sort through misinformation:
- Does the treatment promise a cure for all cancers? If it does, be suspicious of these claims from the start.
- Does the product have a “secret” ingredient? Don’t ever use a product unless all of the ingredients are clearly listed on the label – this same rule applies to any supplement used for any purpose.
- Are you offered personal testimonials about the treatment, but no actual scientific evidence? Only use treatments that have solid scientific-backing by trusted medical journals.
Having said all of this, don’t lose heart. There are plenty of complementary and alternative cancer treatments available that do have solid research supporting their use, and they can make a big difference in your care. When considering alternative therapies, recognize these can accomplish differing purposes:
- Some treatments work to prevent or reverse cancer growth. Some of the more popular forms of this type of treatment involve the use of non-toxic therapies such as nutritional supplements and herbs.
- Some treatments work to ease cancer pain. These types of therapies may not necessarily “fight” the cancer per se, but they will help ease the cancer pain. These treatments include acupuncture, massage therapy, and homeopathy.
- Some treatments help reduce the side effects of conventional medicine such as nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
Where do I start?
- First, see an oncologist. Second, see another oncologist to get a second opinion. Make sure that you know what you’re dealing with. That is, get the correct diagnosis from at least two different doctors. It is worth it to pay for a second opinion to make sure you are properly diagnosed, and thus, properly treated.
- Find a naturopathic oncology doctor or clinic. You have several options to do this. First, you can use our directory listings to find a doctor in your area here. All of the doctors listed in our directory use complementary and alternative medicine techniques regularly in their practice. You can also contact Cancer Treatment Centers of America here. They utilize conventional medicine in combination with alternative medicine such as herbal extracts, dietary supplements, homeopathic remedies, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, nutrition therapy, and others. They have 24-hour, 7-days per week assistance; call their number to discuss your treatment options.
- Find a naturopathic doctor. If you cannot find a naturopathic oncology doctor or clinic in your area, then search instead for a naturopathic doctor (ND). You can see a naturopath in conjunction with an oncologist to make sure you are getting the best combination of conventional and complementary medicine. Use our directory to find a naturopath in your area here.
- Improve your diet. Of all the alternative cancer treatments, none are more effective than proper nutrition. There are literally hundreds of research articles that support nutrition therapy for cancer treatment. Again, you can use our physician directory to find a doctor who specializes in nutritional medicine here or you can search for a nutritionist in our practitioner directory here.
- Take a multivitamin/multi-mineral or consider vitamin therapy. There is a plethora of scientific data that supports the use of vitamin therapy for cancer care, especially vitamin C intravenous therapy (learn more here). In addition, vitamins and minerals – such as B vitamins – can help reduce the side effects of cancer drugs such as fatigue. You can find a doctor who specializes in vitamin therapy here.
- Take herbs and supplements. This one is tricky. You really need to find someone (such as those specialists listed above) who can walk you through the variety of herbs and supplements. It is absolutely critical for you to make sure that any vitamin, herb, supplement, or homeopathic preparation does not interfere with your chemotherapy or other pharmaceutical medications.
Alternative cancer treatments that target specific symptoms:
Again, it is recommended you work with a naturopathic oncology doctor or a naturopathic doctor to get the best alternative cancer treatments for your diagnosis. However, here are a few general guidelines to help:
Nausea and/or vomiting
Ginger and peppermint help decrease chemotherapy-induced nausea. You can also try acupuncture and aromatherapy.
Vitamins, minerals, ginseng, massage and exercise. (See our Comprehensive Fatigue Guide here for more options.)
Homeopathy, acupuncture, massage and aromatherapy
Exercise, aromatherapy, or supplements for insomnia such as melatonin.
Stress, anxiety and depression
You can learn more about alternative cancer treatments in the following free resources:
- Naturopathic Medicine: How to Find a Naturopathic Doctor and When to Seek Naturopathy Treatment
- How Does Acupuncture Work?
- Aromatherapy Essential Oils Chart
- 5 Breast Cancer Prevention Tips That Could Save Your Life
- The Controversial Flax Seed: Benefits Your Health or Not?
- National Cancer Institute: A Guide for People with Cancer
- Cancer Nutrition Center
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America FAQ’s