CAM Guidelines

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

APRIL 28, 2017

CAM=Complementary and alternative medicine, and we know that almost all cancer patients do something from this world. Hopefully they are also receiving appropriate western standard-of-care medical treatment, but including acupuncture or Reiki or support group participation can make life a bit easier.

The usual caveats include a strong reminder to tell all of your doctors what you are doing. It is as important for your acupuncturist to know about your chemotherapy as it is for your medical oncologist to know that you are receiving acupuncture. The worries begin with anything that you ingest. There have not been studies to consider possible interactions between supplements or herbs or vitamins and cancer drugs. The NCI has done a few studies of some common CAM treatments, and has found, for example, that St John's Wort has no proven value in treating depression. What we don't know is if St John's Wort might minimize the efficacy of a chemo drug.So, please, I am begging you talk to your doctor before you swallow anything and consider waiting until active treatment is done before you add anything to your routine.

A second major reminder is the fact that something is natural does not guarantee that it is safe. Remember that there are poisonous mushrooms....

This is a very good article from about a recent report from the Society of Integrative Oncology. Here is the beginning and a link to read more:

Society of Integrative Oncology Updates Guidelines on
Using Complementary Therapies During and After Breast
Cancer Treatment

Complementary medicine is the term used to describe therapeutic techniques that are not part of conventional medicine (also called "regular," "standard," or "mainstream" medicine). Complementary therapies are used as a "complement" or an addition to conventional medicine. Because complementary therapies can be combined or integrated with conventional medical treatment, they’re also called "integrative therapies."
Complementary medicine includes techniques such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, support groups, and yoga. Sometimes called holistic medicine, complementary medicine typically addresses how disease affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.
Conventional medicine has been proven to be safe and effective by numerous scientific studies. While some studies show that people diagnosed with breast cancer can get benefits from complementary medicine, it's important to know that complementary therapies usually don't undergo the same kinds of rigorous testing as conventional medicine.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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