However, when it comes to finding out about alternative cancer treatments and how to access them, patients often find themselves on their own, with a bewildering explosion of information, some reliable and some not.
Doctors themselves often lack reliable information about alternatives, and are fearful about drug interactions with herbs or vitamins. At the same time, they want to know what their patients are using.
With an estimated 10 to 60 percent of cancer patients using some form of complementary therapy, public demand for more information has been responsible for some recent initiatives to study cancer alternatives.
After the 1993 National Forum on Breast Cancer , the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative formed a task force to advise it on how best to promote research into unconventional therapies. Chaired by Dr. Elizabeth Kaegi, former Director of the National Cancer Institute , the task force reviewed available literature for essiac, green tea, iscadora, hydrazine sulfate, vitamins A, C, and E and 714-X. Their information packages on these six topics are available free through the Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 or at their web site. Although the conclusions tend to be quite limited from an alternative perspective, they provide a good starting point.
In addition, the articles were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal . Comprehensive summaries of all literature reviewed are available on request for doctors.
At an October 1996 conference held in Vancouver, forty doctors from across North America agreed to study unconventional treatments for breast cancer. One innovative study proposed comparing 100 women following conventional treatment to 100 women using conventional therapies plus alternatives.
The study would then measure differences in quality of life as well as rates of recurrence and survival for the two groups. Alternative medicine usually involves a multi-pronged approach. So it may be problematic to study a single therapy in isolation, as is usually proposed.
In Vancouver, a new multidisciplinary Center for Integrative Therapy offers complementary therapies for cancer. The Center will employ two full time physicians, Dr. Roger Rogers and Dr. Hal Gunn , and will include practitioners doing massage, body work, yoga, meditation, music therapy, art therapy, and therapeutic touch. Gunn sees the goal of the clinic as providing people with more options and helping bridge the gap between alternative and conventional medicine.
The Center will also be involved in researching non-traditional therapies. It will collaborate with the University of Texas and the Tzu Chi Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Vancouver Hospital to study 714-X and essiac.
New York oncologist Dr. Charles Simone, author of Cancer and Nutrition (Avery, 1992) refers to over 200 peer reviewed articles which show that nutritional modification, including the use of antioxidants, decreases the side effects and complications of chemotherapy and radiation while increasing response rates to both therapies.
Several excellent reference books are available including, The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer by Diamond, Cowden and Goldberg, (Future Medicine 1997); Cancer Therapy: The Independent Consumer's Guide by Ralph Moss (Equinox, 1995), and A Guide to Unconventional Cancer Therapies by The Ontario Breast Cancer Exchange Program, funded by Health Canada (905-727-3300).
Ralph Moss, the author of ten books including Questioning Chemotherapy, and Herbs Against Cancer, provides a research service for cancer alternatives. For $275 U.S., The Moss Reports provides a detailed 30 to 50 page report specific to your type of cancer including the most promising alternative treatments, and how to obtain them. Call 718-636-4433.
Meanwhile, take the time to examine all your options. Too many people are making decisions based on fear and terror. Whatever type of therapy you choose, you still need to know and trust yourself.
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