Complementary Medicine In Cancer Treatment

Slowly, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have quietly found acceptance in at least some areas of medical academia. The recommendations, based on evidence, are usually for complementary medicine as opposed to alternative medicine. This important issue will be covered over several posts as many of our readers (this blog and in over 80 countries are deeply interested as patients, caregivers, and doctors. We strongly encourage our readers to participate in a discussion on this via comments or e-mails. Our readership has grown from 35 to over 80 countries in 2011.

Alternative medicine is defined as a substitute for mainstream care and not recommended by the Society of Integrative Oncologists (SIO). According to SIO authors of the source paper cited below: Complementary medicine makes use of unconventional treatment modalities and approaches that are non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical but that have known efficacy. When combined with mainstream care, these modalities can enhance effectiveness and reduce adverse symptoms….Over time, some complementary therapies have proven safe and effective.

SIO includes the following in its list of CAM: mind-body modalities, massage therapy, physical activity, energy therapies, acupuncture, diet, and dietary supplements.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS which is part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) National Health Interview Survey of 31,044 adults in 2002 in the US:

75% of respondents used some form of CAM (including prayer)

50% use some form of CAM (excluding prayer)

80% of cancer patients use CAM, mainly as complementary therapy (Data Monitor 2002 Survey)

40% of cancer patients use CAM during survivorship period following acute cancer therapies

In Japan, according to a separate nationwide survey conducted in Japan, 53% of lung cancer patients use CAM. This is the highest use of CAM in all cancer diagnosis.

CAM users in the US, Japan, and Europe are younger, more educated, more affluent.

The source of all this information:

“Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines for Integrative Oncology: Complementary Therapies and Botancials” published in the Journal of the Society of Integrative Oncology, Vol 7, No 3 (summer), 2009, pp 85-120. I am having difficulties in providing a link to this source that was listed in the latest, January 2012, NCCAM Clinical Digest (NCCAM_CLINICALDIGEST@LIST.NIH.GOV).

The blog will devote several posts to this important issue and our focus will be yoga and meditation as part of the mind-body modalities. I am often asked by those who attend my class (seniors right now) to speak to their doctors about what we do.

My experience from 2009 to 2011 is that seniors (65 plus), along with all age groups, are increasingly aware and seeking CAM. Our area in the US is affluent; the seniors are proactive, knowledgeable, and open to new options.

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