Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment



Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the USA


Complementary medicine is quite popular among cancer patients as such treatment reduces symptoms of cancer, controls depression, anxiety, and insomnia improves general health, helps to control the situation during cancer, and reduces side effects of the disease.

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  1. The popularity of complementary medicine.
  2. The help of different methods of complementary medicine: diet and nutrition, psychotherapeutic method, bioelectromagnetism, folk remedies, pharmacological and biological treatment, manual therapy, herbal medicine.

A. Diet and nutrition.

B. Psychotherapeutic method.

C. Bioelectromagnetism.

D. Folk remedies.

E. Pharmacological and biological treatment.

F. Manual therapy.

G. Herbal medicine.

  1. Conclusion.

Why Do Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine?

The Popularity of Complementary Medicine

Complementary medicine considerably differs in its nature. This peculiarity is decisive for oncology professionals. Complementary medicine is used as complementary aids to generally accepted methods of treatment. It may be used to treat specific symptoms, provide non-invasive palliative care with minimal side effects, improve patient health, and strengthen the effectiveness of anticancer treatment. The effectiveness of complementary medicine is fluctuated from unusual to a complete absence of a positive effect. Harmful effects are rare.

Complementary medicine is extremely popular among the population. People with higher education advert to it more often than others.

Nearly 40 percent of adults report using complementary and alternative medicine, also called CAM for short. Doctors are embracing CAM therapies, too, often combining them with mainstream medical therapies — spawning the new term "integrative medicine. ("Complementary and Alternative Medicine -" n.p.)

Thus, studies, which were carried out in the USA, found that a significant number of cancer patients use alternative or complementary medicine. The same situation is in other countries. In Poland, more than a quarter of cancer patients use alternative medicine. In South Australia, 46% of children and in the Netherlands 15% of the adult cancer patients, in addition to generally-accepted methods, are treated with the help of complementary medicine.

Different Methods of Complementary Medicine

The help of different methods of complementary medicine: diet and nutrition, psychotherapeutic method, bioelectromagnetism, folk remedies, pharmacological and biological treatment, manual therapy, herbal medicine

There are different types of complementary medicine: diet and nutrition, psychotherapeutic method, bioelectromagnetism, folk remedies, pharmacological and biological treatment, manual therapy, herbal medicine.

Diet and Nutrition

Proponents of this method of treatment prove that certain foods stimulate the immune system, which in turn helps the organism get rid of cancer. Many clinics of alternative medicine use special diets as part of the general treatment. Generally-accepted medicine admits that taking fruits and vegetables, which are rich in fiber and antioxidants, avoiding excessive fats helps to reduce the risk of cancer.

Antioxidant supplementation may help reduce cancer risk or slow growth and metastasis rate of established malignant disease, but unanswered questions surround their concurrent administration with conventional cancer treatments. For example, antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E and Coenzyme Q10 might lower the effectiveness of certain chemotherapeutic agents, which exert their anti-tumor effects through oxidative stress, while others may potentiate chemotherapy. (Robinson n.p.)

Psychotherapeutic Method

The idea of this treatment is based on the assertion that a person can affect his/her health with the help of his/her mind and prayers. This fact corresponds to the individualistic nature of American culture. Psychotherapy is very popular in the United States.

The proponents of this method believe that psychological factors and therapy can not only prevent the occurrence of cancer but care about it. According to "Psychotherapy":

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a group of twenty-one expert cancer treatment centers in the United States, now recommends that all patients with cancer be evaluated for emotional distress. People who are found to have higher distress levels during cancer treatment are referred for counseling or therapy. Psychotherapy has become a standard complementary measure to improve the quality of life for people with cancer. ("Psychotherapy" n.p.).

Achievement of mental health conditions in cancer patients is a fundamental component of effective cancer treatment. Good doctor and patient relationship, emotional and practical help of friends and family are extremely important. However, the idea of a person’s ability to influence the disease by mental and emotional effort is not proven enough. Despite the significant efforts, the disease continues to progress.


Bioelectromagnetism is a study about the functioning of the body and its interaction with electromagnetic fields. This method is based on using low-frequency fluctuations of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is considered that the magnetic field while penetrating through the body heals the damaged tissue (including malignant). Some groups of researchers from the United States study the action of magnetic fields, but they have not published any work about bioelectromagnetism yet.

The Office of Alternative Medicine in Los Angeles began to check the effectiveness of bioelectromagnetism on animals. Researchers pass electricity through the electrodes directly into the tumor. These attempts are based on technology, which is widely used in China. However, this method is very perspective. According to (Journal of Physics: Conference Series):

The method, such as the one for the magneto-induced differentiation capable of inducing differentiation in stem cells, which are also immature, should not fail to cause differentiation in cancer cells. The malignant cells could differentiate into benign tumor cells or at least less aggressive. This will lead to an improvement or containment of the cancer effects. (Giuliani et al. n.p.).

Folk Remedies

This category includes the healing system, which is largely based on the concept of the uniqueness of the human body, which was subsequently adopted by Western science. There are two of the most famous sanative systems: Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurveda. These two systems became popular thanks to the bestseller of Deepak Chopra.

"Ayur" means life and "Veda" – knowledge (translated from Sanskrit). It is the healthcare system with 5000 years of experience of many generations. At its core is the division of people into three physical types. There are specific remedies and modes of improving health for each type. Ayurveda has a strong component of psychotherapy that emphasizes the need to maintain balance in the mind by yoga, meditation, and other means.

According to estimates of experts, ten clinics in North America in which Ayurveda is practiced served nearly 25.000 patients for the past 10 years. The amount of cancer patients among them is unknown.

Chinese medicine is based on the use of energy "chi" (life force) that flows through energy channels (meridians). Chinese medicine uses techniques of Ki Gong and Tai chi, active auxiliary treatment for intensification, and balancing of “chi”. In addition, Chinese Medicine widely uses herbal pharmacopeia for the treatment of many diseases, including cancer. Chinese herbal teas, philosophy, and relaxation techniques attract many patients. Patients often use them as a complementary treatment. Numerous studies are carried out to explore the positive aspects of Chinese medicines. Acupuncture, which has no negative side effects and is relatively cheap, relieves pain and nausea in many patients with cancer.

Pharmacological and Biological Treatment

This type of treatment is very controversial. Antineoplastons are probably the best known and most popular means of pharmacological treatment. They were proposed by Stanislaw Burzynski and are available in his clinic in Houston (Texas). Public interest remains high, although laboratory studies of eminent scientists have not confirmed the existence of antineoplastons. Representatives of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Canadian scholars who visited this clinic announced the absence of any efficiency.

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Immune stimulatory therapy became popular thanks to the efforts of Lawrence Burton. This therapy is used in his clinic in the Bahamas. The method is based on bringing into balance the four-protein components of blood. This injection therapy as antineoplastons consists of the strengthening of the immune system of patients. Documentation of the effectiveness of immune stimulatory therapy is unreliable. The hospital continues to function after the death of Mr. Burton, though popularity is lost.

The reason behind the decline is the flowering of other types of complementary medicine, such as shark cartilage treatment. Despite the absence of a positive basis, tablets and candles from shark cartilage became available in stores of "health food" and have gained considerable popularity. Office of Alternative Medicine attempted to study the effectiveness of anticancer shark cartilage, but research was halted because of the pollution of cartilage.

Another well-known biological method that is popular in the southeastern United States is “cancel”. The proponents of this method believe that this method returns the cancer cells to the "primitive condition" in which they can be digested and become inert.

Laboratory studies have found that "cancel" consists of simple chemical substances: nitric acid, sodium sulfide, soda, and sulfuric acid. Scientists have not found the data to prove the anti-cancer properties of "cancel" and rejected the claims of supporters of its effectiveness.

Metabolic treatment was initiated in the USA and is held in Tijuana (Mexico). The basic idea of the treatment is that the toxic products of malignant cells accumulate in the liver and lead to liver failure and death. Thus, treatment is aimed at neutralizing the liver affection by the use of coffee enemas and a special diet (reduction of salt and fat amount, increasing the amount of potassium).

Metabolic physicians consider that people can be healthy if they supply the individual cells with appropriate amounts of nutrients, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, oxygen from the diet. It is also very important to eliminate the waste products of cellular metabolism by normal excretion and efficient breathing. Treatments should be based on substances that will help the body to detoxify itself by eliminating hazardous substances. This is, in general terms, the heart of metabolic treatment.

Metabolic therapy is a non-toxic cancer treatment based on the use of Vitamin B- 17, proteolytic pancreatic enzymes, immuno-stimulants, and vitamin and mineral supplements. Laetrile (B-17) is the chief antitumor agent. It is a natural chemotherapeutic agent found in over 1,200 plants, particularly in the seeds of common fruits such as apricots, peaches, plums, and apples. (“The Ultimate Guide to Vitamin B-17 Metabolic Therapy” n.p.)

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy is a technique of touch and manipulation. Chiropractors were the first who started using manual methods. Some Chiropractors believe that they can treat many illnesses with the help of special manipulations. Massage is a great complementary treatment for cancer patients, especially for stress relief. However, one of the most famous methods of manual techniques is "therapeutic touch". This method contradicts its name. In fact, "experts" on manual therapy make movements with their hands a few inches from the patient's body and remove the "blockade" of the patient's energy field.

“Therapeutic touch was developed by Dolores Krieger, who is a professor affiliated with New York University School of Nursing, as well as Dora Kunz, who is a natural healing practitioner, in the 1970s. ("Therapeutic Touch").”The doctrine of “Therapeutic Touch” was studied in many American paramedical educational institutions, as well. Many critics of the generally accepted medicine ridiculed its fundamental premises. However, the nurses of the United States and other countries widely practice the method of "healing touch."

Herbal Medicine

Herbal remedies are a characteristic part of folk medicine throughout the history of its existence. Herbal treatment is common in most parts of the world. Even though many herbal products have anti-cancer properties, only some of them have gained considerable popularity as a complementary means to treat cancer.

"Essiac" is a popular herbal complementary anti-cancer remedy in North America. Initially, it was offered by a Canadian folk healer and later was popularized by Nurse Rene Caisse. This plant has a very interesting origin. Long ago, the Canadian medicine tribe had a mix of herbs to treat various illnesses. Later on, it was passed to Canadian nurse – Rene Caisse.

Her aunt suffered from cancer. She was given only 6 months to live. Rene Caisse decided to try out this herb tea on her aunt. It was a miracle. After that, her aunt lived for 21 years. Essiac consists of four herbs: burdock root, slippery elm, sheep sorrel, and turkey rhubarb root. These herbs work in harmony to relieve pain and help cells repair and purify the blood.

Iscador is a popular anti-cancer remedy in Europe, where it was used for centuries. It is made from mistletoe that grows on deciduous trees. This herb was found in many areas of Europe, Korea, and America. Doctors began to use Ecuador to treat cancer in 1920. “Today, Ecuador is given to patients in two ways. The first is a central component of a complex treatment regimen. In the second, it is given to patients as a single agent” (Michael 157). This herb is widely used throughout Europe and is recognized in Switzerland and Germany.

Rats with cancer showed a 78% reduction in their thymus gland when given Ecuador. The thymus gland is a central component of the immune system. Studies have shown that Pescador reduces tumor size and prolongs lives. Patients with cancers of the cervix, ovaries, breast, stomach, colon, and lung should try using this herb. It can also cure cancers of the bone marrow, connective tissue, lymphomas, sarcomas, and leukemias. (Michael 157)

Another effective natural remedy is Aloe Vera. This herb increases the immune system and destroys cancer tumors.

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Scientific research shows strong immunomodulatory and antitumor properties for Aloe Vera polysaccharides. That means the gel helps boost the immune system function while destroying cancer tumors. One study published in International Immunopharmacology (1995) showed that Aloe Vera polysaccharides exhibited potent macrophage-activating activities including producing increased volumes of nitric oxide (which has antitumor potential) (Adams 3)

Some cancer patients are treated with complementary and alternative medicine. Most of them use massages and herbal teas as complementary treatments. Oncologists need to communicate with patients about complementary medicine, to explore what their patients use in addition to generally-accepted treatment. It is also necessary to consider the interaction (side-effects, benefits) of complementary medicine with treatment, which patients receive.


Why do patients turn to complementary medicine? Distrust to the ability of traditional medicine to treat cancer effectively is widely spread. Side effects of chemotherapy in many cases are so serious that public opinion began to look for “natural” products, seeking a softer and more effective replacement of traditional cancer treatment. Complementary methods such as meditations, relaxation techniques, massage, Yoga, Ki Gong, Tai Chi, and other light exercises, aromatherapy, herbal teas, music, art, and therapeutic exercise, can reduce the negative effects of traditional treatment.

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