Value of CAM
Many women add complementary therapy (CAM) to their standard western breast cancer treatments. There have been a lot of studies indicating that a large number of all cancer patients do the same, and also that many of them never discuss these choices with their doctors. The standard bottom line has been that there is no rigorous, evidence-based data to confirm the medical value of complementary therapies, that it is important to mention your plans to your doctors (and to tell any complementary clinicians about your other treatments), and that most doctors are wary of anything you ingest during active treatment (not knowing if that herb might negatively interfere with a chemotherapy drug).
In my own experience, especially women with advanced cancers are likely to be interested in other possibilities. When cure is not possible, it becomes even more important to improve quality of life (QOL) and to consider anything that might be useful. I most frequently hear about the benefit of acupuncture, many women believing that it has reduced their side effects, enhanced their overall sense of well-being, and perhaps lengthened their lives.
From Cancer, the ACS journal, comes this really interesting article suggesting that the addition of some Chinese complementary therapies may extend life in women with advanced breast cancer. Here is the abstract and then a link to read more:
Adjunctive Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapy Improves Survival in Patients With Advanced Breast Cancer
BACKGROUND: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is one of the most common complementary and alternative medicines used in the treatment of patients with breast cancer. However, the clinical effect of TCM on survival, which is a major concern in these individuals,
lacks evidence from large-scale clinical studies. METHODS: The authors used the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to conduct a retrospective population-based cohort study of patients with advanced breast cancer between 2001 and 2010. The patients were separated into TCM users and nonusers, and Cox regression models were applied to determine the association
between the use of TCM and patient survival. RESULTS: A total of 729 patients with advanced breast cancer receiving taxanes were included in the current study. Of this cohort, the mean age was 52.0 years; 115 patients were TCM users (15.8%) and 614 patients were TCM nonusers. The mean follow-up was 2.8 years, with 277 deaths reported to occur during the 10-year period. Multivariate
analysis demonstrated that, compared with nonusers, the use of TCM was associated with a significantly decreased risk of all-cause mortality (adjusted hazards ratio [HR], 0.55 [95% confidence interval, 0.33-0.90] for TCM use of 30-180 days; adjusted HR, 0.46 [95%
confidence interval, 0.27-0.78] for TCM use of >180 days). Among the frequently used TCMs, those found to be most effective (lowest HRs) in reducing mortality were Bai Hua She She Cao, Ban Zhi Lian, and Huang Qi.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the current observational study suggest that adjunctive TCM therapy may lower the risk of death in patients with advanced breast cancer. Future randomized controlled trials are required to validate these findings. Cancer 2014;000:000–000. VC 2014 American Cancer Society.