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Questioning the Value of Alternative Medicine

Posted 8/1/2013

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  I know, I know. You may be wondering what I continue to bring up this topic; the answer is that it continues to be a hot topic in my office, and I know that many women are wondering about or being bombarded with suggestions about alternative medicine/complementary therapies/CAM.

  Here is the absolute bottom line no what your personal views may be: Please do not take any supplements, vitamins, anything that you ingest while you are being actively treated for cancer without discussing it with your doctor. No matter what you may read or people may recommend, there is evidence that some things (e.g. antioxidants) can interfere with the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs and/or radiation. Why in the world would you put yourself through these tough treatments while simultaneously doing something that could limit their value?

  Once you are done with treatment, the choice is yours. And, during treatment, there is no reason not to include acupuncture or massage or Reiki or anything external to your skin if it helps you feel better. Before, however, you spend time and money and energy on complementary therapies, please think them through and be careful. Just because something is "natural" does not mean that it is necessarily helpful or even that it might not be dangerous (remember that there are plants that are poisonous!). Even if not harmful, there are plenty of things that are not likely to help you and will hurt your wallet. Just this week, a woman in one of my groups told us about pressure she is receiving from someone to buy expensive "juice pills". The best I could understand, these are pills that are intense extracts of elaborate juice mixtures that are purported to fight cancer. My reaction: Baloney and spend your money elsewhere.

  Please do not misunderstand my position. I know many women who have greatly benefitted from acupuncture and other therapies, and I am most respectful of some of these ancient traditions. It is the money-making scams that scare me. This is all an introduction to a nice blog from Web MD by Heather Millar about a new book, Do you Believe in Magic? :The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Dr. Paul Offit. Here is the beginning and then a link to read more:

Examining Alternative Medicine
By Heather Millar

Think youʼve got a beat on a sure-fire cancer cure? Think again, says Dr. Paul A. Offit, the
chief of infectious diseases at Childrenʼs Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit has just
published a new book, Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of
Alternative Medicine.
Dr. Offit, a pediatrician and expert on infectious diseases and vaccines, has taken on
popular ideas about medicine before. In 2008, he wrote Autismʼs False Prophets,
questioning the idea that vaccinations cause autism, or that vaccinations cause infections.
That annoyed some people so much that Dr. Offit received death threats.
This new book is likely to upset even more people. Heʼs taking on all of alternative medicine, the whole multi-billion dollar empire, from acupuncture to vitamins to electric gizmos to myriad supposed cancer cures like shark cartilage or laetrile or chelation therapy. Dr. Offit stands on the side of peer-reviewed formal medicine, and medicines, that have been proven effective in impartial clinical trials. That doesnʼt mean that the massage, or chiropractic or stress-reduction meditation or whatever might not help, only that itʼs unproven.


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