You may have heard this phrase used to describe all types of treatments, so let's first describe exactly what these terms mean. Alternative treatments are used in place of conventional treatments and have not been thoroughly evaluated in a clinical trial setting. Conventional treatments are treatments that have been tested in a clinical trial environment, and published in peer-review journals, after being scrutinized by other scientist/researchers for the quality of the research approach and data. Complementary treatments are treatments that are used along with conventional treatments.
I believe in facing a storm head on, so I will be very honest. I am uncomfortable writing about alternative and complementary treatments; because I have limited knowledge and it is a controversial topic. I believe that the extreme opinions have frightened many of us from even discussing this topic. When it is brought up in conversations, we often have to listen to a tirade of strong opinions. On one extreme are the people who believe that the only treatment you should use is holistic and alternative treatments; and on the other extreme there are those who believe anything holistic, spiritual, alternative, and complementary is nothing but pure quackery.
Let me jump right into the center of the fire and tell you that I believe the middle of the roaders far outweigh the total of both extreme camps. I am a middle of the roader. I have had conventional treatments that I chose, and I have declined to have some that were recommended because of their side effects. I have made many life changes based on healthier living which include making dietary changes and using selected supplements, herbs, chiropractic manipulation and stress reduction techniques. I believe these things will help me to boost my immune system by allowing me to nurture, heal, and restore my body. The key point here is that I looked at all the elements of the treatment and how it would effect my body and my life, and made a personal decision. And as you can see, I am still here! I will try to show you links that will hopefully result in a balanced viewpoint.
** We neither condemn nor endorse any of these therapies. The links at the end of this page will give you the opportunity to research these and others more thoroughly.
You need to realistically consider all aspects of an alternative or complementary treatment, prior to undertaking it.
Can you afford it? Many of these treatments are not covered under any health insurance plan and some can be quite expensive. Chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture are modalities widely accepted by insurance companies.
Will it exacerbate any existing health problems you may have? I drastically increased my already high blood pressure with a supplement I was taking.
If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Products that expound their ability to cure everything from a hang-nail to end stage cancer are unrealistic.
Many supplements and herbs can have side affects, just like accepted pharmaceuticals. Make sure that you research them thoroughly.
Introduce each new supplement, herb, or regimen one item at a time. When I first started, I introduced everything I thought would benefit me all at the same time. I had some severe side affects and was unable to tell which product was causing them. I had to go off them all, let my body recover, and then introduce them slowly, one at a time.
Make sure that the herbs you choose to take are of a good quality. The quality of herbal products is based on many items including the growing environment, quality of the original seed, and the processing of the product. They vary widely in quality.
Be overly cautious when the patient is a child. Many of these regimens are formulated for adult use only. Children's bodies react differently and making drastic changes to a child's diet may cause more harm than good. Check with your child's oncologist or pediatrician for safety concerns.
Let me say one final comment. I believe with researchers looking at less invasive and more precise ways of destroying cancer cells; we will see the advent of many treatments that will fit the needs and desires of everyone. The middle of the road may become a very busy highway!
Many treatments may be considered complementary or alternative.
Dietary changes - a full range from healthier eating practices to macrobiotic diets.
Hypnosis (including self hypnosis), mediation, relaxation, biofeedback, & visualization techniques.
Manual manipulation and holistic medicine - chiropractic, osteopathic & massage therapy.
Metabolic therapies, such as the Gerson diet.
Prayer and other forms of spiritual intervention.
Supplements and herbs - vitamin, mineral, herbal (including teas) and nutraceutical products.
Traditional and folk remedies including traditional chinese medicine and acupuncture. Many have been practiced in Western cultures for centuries.
Coenzyme Q10 - clinical trial information from NCI.
Gerson and Livingstone diets - abstract in PubMed.
Gonzalez Protocol Trial - National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine.
Mistletoe Extract - from NCI
Mistletoe (viscum) Extract & Mistletoe Lectins - abstracts in PubMed.
Office of Cancer Complementary & Alternative Medicine - clinical trials available.
Alternative Medicine Section - Cancer Patients Aid Association/India website.
Alternative Medicine Home Page - comprehensive resources for research.
Complementary/Integrative Therapies - at MD Anderson
Herbs & Botanicals - Memorial Sloan Kettering's search engine for information.
Medline Plus - vitamin and mineral supplements.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines - complete website from NIH.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements - search their IBIDS database by supplement, herb, or disease.
Dietary Supplements - resource list of publications and web