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An Expert Conversation on CAM

Posted 9/3/2014

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  CAM=Complementary and Alternative Medicine and, as we know, many to most cancer patients at least consider adding at least one to their treatment. I have limited experience with people who choose only CAM treatments as, obviously, they don't come to my medical center. I have, very sadly, known a few women who had made that choice in the past and then came to us with widespread disease--too late for any treatment to do much good and surely too late for cure.

  In my practice, I hear most about acupuncture (often useful for nausea, fatigue, and a general sense of well being) and questions about diet. If you are a regular reader here, you know my thoughts about diet. To sum them up, there is NO such thing as an anti-cancer diet and very little about diet that matters while going through treatment. It does matter to eat enough protein so that your body can replace and repair cells, and it surely matters to take in enough fluids. Beyond that, you should pretty much feel free to eat what you want and whatever appeals. One you are done with treatment, this is still generally true except that the usual rules about lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy carbs and less red meat all apply.

   Getting off my soap box and on to something more general, this is an introduction to an excellent Medscape article that presents a conversation among several experts. Here is the start and a link:

Asking the Experts: Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Cancer
Gabriel Miller, Barrie R. Cassileth, PhD, Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published earlier this year,[1] 17.9% of adults use non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplements -- more than twice the percentage who use chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, yoga, massage, meditation, or special diets. A second study, using data from the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found that 34% of patients in the survey -- some 72 million people in the United States -- were taking some kind of dietary supplement along with a prescription medication.[2]

And these percentages are probably higher among cancer patients. Studies estimate that at least half of cancer patients use some type of complementary intervention, with one survey by the market research firm Datamonitor[3] suggesting that 80% of cancer patients use an alternative or complementary modality.


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