Alternative Medicine Cancer Treatments Double Risk of Death: Study

Individuals who opt for alternative cancer treatments, such as homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, or special diets, may face twice the risk of dying when compared to patients who choose traditional cancer treatments, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers indicated the death risk varied by the type of cancer, but overall, those who chose alternative medicines were less likely to survive, even when their chance of dying from cancer following traditional treatments was often nearly 100%.

The findings were published this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, evaluating outcomes for 281 patients who opted for alternative cancer treatments, and comparing them to 560 patients who choose conventional cancer treatments. The data was taken from the National Cancer Database, involving patients were diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast, prostate, lung or colorectal cancer between 2004 and 2013.

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Alternative therapies included botanicals, homeopathy, special diets, energy crystals, vitamins, probiotics, traditional Indian and Chines Ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture, naturopathy, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, yoga, Tai Qi, and Qi Gong.

Traditional cancer treatments included chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and hormone therapy.

Overall, those who chose alternative therapies faced double the risk of death from a common, curable cancer. About 44% of patients had breast cancer, 25% prostate, 18% lung, and 12% colorectal cancer.

Broken down by the type of cancer, breast cancer patients who opted for alternative therapies had a five-fold greater risk of death. Those with colon cancer had a risk of death four times that of traditional therapy patients. People with lung cancer had a twofold risk and patients with prostate cancer did not have an increased risk of death using alternative therapies.

Doctors indicate many patients are increasingly opting for alternative medicines, refusing or delaying conventional treatments. This allows cancers to advance, tumors to become larger, spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body, thus increasing a person’s chance of dying.

The chance of curing cancer if it grows or spreads becomes less likely. For example, the stage I breast cancer five year survival rate is nearly 100%. The five year survival rate for stage IV breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or other part of body is about 20%.

Many people who opt for alternative cancers believe those treatments are just as effective to treat the cancer, but do not have toxic side effects like many traditional treatments, such as chemotherapy, which can make a person very weak and nauseous.

Researchers also indicated the people who tend to opt for alternative medicines are often highly educated, have a higher income, and are healthier overall. Many live in the West and Pacific regions of the country.


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