Use of Complementary, Alternative Medicine Affects Initiation of Chemotherapy

Excerpt:

“Women with early-stage breast cancer for whom chemotherapy was indicated and who used dietary supplements and multiple types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) were less likely to start chemotherapy than nonusers of alternative therapies, according to latest research led by Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. This is one of the first studies to evaluate how complementary and alternative medicine use affects decisions regarding chemotherapy. Findings are available in JAMA Oncology.

“Dr. Greenlee and colleagues studied a group of 685 women with early-stage breast cancer who were recruited from Columbia University Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and Henry Ford Health System and enrolled 2006-2010. The women were younger than 70 with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer.”

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The Truth behind Three Natural Cancer “Cures”

“The Internet is full of ‘miracle cures’ for cancer and alleged surefire ways to prevent it, and well-meaning people may urge cancer patients to just try them out in hopes of eliminating their disease. Some patients, worried that conventional treatments won’t work or pose significant side effects, seek a treatment whose effectiveness isn’t actually supported by scientific evidence or may even prove dangerous. During a time of uncertainty and anxiety, it’s understandable that any hope for a cure — even if it isn’t medically proven — is tempting.

“ ‘Patients want something “natural” to try to treat their cancer or prevent their cancer from coming back,’ says Memorial Sloan Kettering pharmacist and herbalist K. Simon Yeung. ‘But the people promoting these treatments might not necessarily have a medical or oncology background. In addition, patients who try these therapies may find, when they come back to seek mainstream treatment, that it’s too late and their cancer has already spread.’ “


High Use of Alternative Medicine in Senior Oncology Patients

“Alternative medicines are widely thought to be at least harmless and very often helpful for a wide range of discomforts and illnesses. However, although they’re marketed as ‘natural,’ they often contain active ingredients that can react chemically and biologically with other therapies. Researchers performed a comprehensive review of all of the medications taken by senior oncology patients and found that as 26 percent were using complementary or alternative medicines (CAM), in a report published August 12th, in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology.

“ ‘Currently, few oncologists are aware of the alternative medicines their patients take,’ said Ginah Nightingale, PharmD, an Assistant Professor in the Jefferson College of Pharmacy at Thomas Jefferson University. ‘Patients often fail to disclose the CAMs they take because they think they are safe, natural, nontoxic and not relevant to their cancer care, because they think their doctor will disapprove, or because the doctor doesn’t specifically ask.’ “


Attitudes about Complementary and Alternative Medicine Predict Use Among Cancer Patients, Penn's Abramson Cancer Center Finds

“A cancer patient’s expectations about the benefits of complementary and alternative (CAM) and their perceived access to CAM therapies are likely to guide whether or not they will use those options, according to a new study published ahead of print in the journal CANCER from researchers at Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.  The team found that attitudes and beliefs about CAM were found to be a better predictor of CAM usage than socio-demographic factors alone – such as race, sex, or education – which are often used to describe CAM users but stop short of fully explaining what drives people to use them.

“The findings may help cancer centers develop more patient-centered programs that remove barriers and better serve diverse groups as they work to better integrate the services into traditional cancer care.”


What's the Harm in Alternative Therapies?

“Every cancer patient has the right to decide what, if any, line of treatment they wish to pursue.

“But we believe it’s vital that people make fully informed decisions based on genuine evidence about the risks and benefits of any therapy – whether alternative, complementary or conventional – in discussion with their doctor.

“To be clear, ‘alternative’ usually implies a treatment is used instead of conventional medicine, while ‘complementary’ therapies are used alongside regular medical treatments.

“Unfortunately, media and online coverage of alternative therapies often doesn’t tell the whole story or include professional medical advice, and can be very misleading.”


New Data Shows Popular Alternative Medicines Can Pose a Risk to Cancer Patients

“The ten most commonly asked about complementary medicines all interact with conventional treatments, potentially posing a threat to patient health and reaffirming the need for complementary or alternative therapies to be discussed between patients and their healthcare provider.

“The new research, being presented on December 3rd at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s (COSA’s) Annual Scientific Meeting, reveals the 10 most commonly inquired about complementary medicines at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre all have predicted or actual drug interactions when taken with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or before surgery.

“The research involved an audit of inquiries to the hospital’s Medicines Information Centre from health providers and patients, over two years.

“The 10 most commonly inquired about products or supplements (excluding vitamins and minerals) were: fish oil, turmeric, coenzyme Q10, milk thistle, green tea, ginger, lactobacillus, licorice, astragalus and reishi mushroom.

“Lead researcher and Senior Pharmacist at Peter MacCallum’s Medicines Information Centre, Sally Brooks, said while levels of these substances found in a healthy diet were unlikely to cause contraindications, larger amounts in complementary medicines could.”


Report Card on Complementary Therapies for Breast Cancer

“Over eighty percent of breast cancer patients in the United States use complementary therapies following a breast cancer diagnosis, but there has been little science-based guidance to inform clinicians and patients about their safety and effectiveness. In newly published guidelines from the Society for Integrative Oncology, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center with colleagues at MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Michigan, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and other institutions in the U.S. and Canada, analyzed which integrative treatments appear to be most effective and safe for patients. They evaluated more than 80 different therapies.

“Meditation, yoga, and relaxation with imagery were found to have the strongest evidence supporting their use. They received an “A” grade and are recommended for routine use for anxiety and other mood disorders common to breast cancer patients. The same practices received a “B” grade for reducing stress, depression, and fatigue, but are also endorsed for most breast cancer patients. Acupuncture received a “B” grade for controlling chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting and can be recommended to most patients. More than 30 interventions, including some natural products and acupuncture for other conditions, had weaker evidence of benefit due to either small study sizes or conflicting study results, and received a “C” grade. Seven other therapies were deemed unlikely to provide any benefit and are not recommended. One therapy was found to be harmful: acetyl-l-carnitine, which is marketed to prevent chemotherapy-related neuropathy, and actually increased risk for the condition.”


Qigong Can Help Fight Fatigue in Prostate Cancer Survivors

“The flowing movements and meditative exercises of the mind-body activity Qigong may help survivors of prostate cancer to combat fatigue. These are the findings of a trial study led by Dr. Anita Y. Kinney at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center and Dr. Rebecca Campo at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study took place at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, and was published in Springer’s Journal of Cancer Survivorship.”