Patients who choose to receive alternative therapy as treatment for curable cancers instead of conventional cancer treatment have a higher risk of death, according to researchers from the Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy and Effectiveness Research Center at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center. The findings were reported online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
There is increasing interest by patients and families in pursuing alternative medicine as opposed to conventional cancer treatment. This trend has created a difficult situation for patients and providers. Although it is widely believed that conventional cancer treatment will provide the greatest chance at cure, there is limited research evaluating the effectiveness of alternative medicine for cancer.
While many cancer patients use alternative therapy in addition to conventional cancer treatments, little is known about patients who use alternative therapy as their only approach to treating their cancer.
To investigate alternative medicine use and its impact on survival compared to conventional cancer treatment, the researchers studied 840 patients with breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer in the National Cancer Database, which represents approximately 70% of newly diagnosed cancers nationwide. Researchers compared 280 patients who chose alternative medicine to 560 patients who had received conventional cancer treatment.
The researchers studied patients diagnosed from 2004 to 2013. They found that alternative medicine when used instead of chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation, led to a greater risk of death. The researchers concluded that patients who chose treatment with alternative medicine were more likely to die and urged for greater scrutiny of the use of alternative medicine for the initial treatment of cancer.
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“We now have evidence to suggest that using alternative medicine in place of proven cancer therapies results in worse survival,” said lead author Skyler Johnson, M.D. “It is our hope that this information can be used by patients and physicians when discussing the impact of cancer treatment decisions on survival.” Patients should always discuss the use of alternative medicine with their doctor and ensure their physician is aware of what they are taking.
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