What Are the Pros and Cons of Cancer and Alternative Medicine?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 21 February 2020
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The pros and cons of cancer and alternative medicine are that alternative medicine can help to manage symptoms associated with cancer and chemotherapy medicines, but it is scientifically unproven, so the effectiveness of these treatments is largely unverified. Alternative medicine differs from complementary medicine because the treatments claim to be a replacement for conventional medical treatment rather than an addition to it. Scientific studies have shown that alternative treatments for cancer itself are ineffective or even could increase death rates. Symptoms associated with cancer treatment, such as pain, fatigue, vomiting, and insomnia, can be helped with alternative medicine in some cases. Patients should discuss these treatments with a qualified oncologist before commencing treatment.

Studies on cancer and alternative medicine have found that no alternative treatments can actively cure or fight cancer. Research conducted into the effects of vitamin and mineral treatments, botanical supplements, and antioxidants has concluded that none of them has been verified to help fight against cancerous cells and tumors. Botanical supplements such as those used in Chinese medicine could have some positive effects, but these may also interfere with conventional medical treatments. For this reason, any patients considering alternative cancer treatment should discuss the options with a doctor. Additionally, antioxidants and beta-carotene supplements might actually increase the risk of cancer and mortality.


Research conducted into the use of alternative medicine to help manage symptoms associated with cancer has had more positive results. Studies have confirmed that botanical and vitamin supplements help patients manage the symptoms associated with cancer treatment and the disease itself. Massage, meditation, yoga, and hypnosis can also fight medication side effects and cancer symptoms. This research supports the use of alternative treatments for cancer, but only as a complement to scientific medicine.

By definition, cancer and alternative medicine are not a good combination. Alternative medicine is not designed to supplement the effects of conventional medicine; it is designed to replace it. Practitioners claim that alternative treatments can cure 90 percent of all cancer, but none of these claims stand up to scientific scrutiny. Patients who choose to replace scientifically effective treatments with those supported by poorly conducted studies or inconsistent evidence are risking their cancer getting worse. Complementing conventional treatments for cancer and alternative medicine can help patients’ outlook and even management of symptoms, but replacing it is dangerous.

Conventional medicine is not wholly against natural therapies. An example of this is willow bark, a natural remedy that is more commonly known as aspirin. After testing of natural or alternative medicine has taken place, the effective treatments become medicine, not alternative medicine. Cancer and alternative medicine isn’t a good combination for most patients because the condition is serious and the medicine is still “alternative.” Any positive effect experienced from alternative medicine is likely to be as a result of the placebo effect, when the idea of receiving any type of treatment causes an improvement in condition.


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