Complementary therapies for cancer increases risk of death
Many cancer patients resort to using complementary therapies, which are therapies that fall beyond the scope of scientific medicine. Past research has shown that patients who use complementary therapies believe it will result in improved survival. Although many patients believe that the use of non-medical treatments with conventional cancer treatments will help, there is very little research that measures the effectiveness of complementary therapies.
The use of complementary medicine was associated with poorer five-year overall survival compared to using no complementary treatment. It was also independently associated with a greater risk of death.
To understand this better, researchers from Yale School of Medicine investigated complementary medicine’s impact on survival and treatment adherence. This observational study used data from the National Cancer Database on 1,901,815 patients from 1500 Commission on Cancer–accredited centres across the United States who were diagnosed with non-metastatic breast, prostate, lung or colorectal cancer between 2004 and 2013. In the main analyses following a matching of age, clinical group stage, race/ethnicity, year of diagnosis, cancer type and other factors, 258 patients who used complementary medicine (199 women and 59 men; average age of 56 years) were compared to 1032 patients in the control group (798 women and 234 men; average age of 56 years).
The researchers found that patients who received complementary medicine in addition to conventional cancer treatments were at a greater risk of death. The use of complementary medicine was associated with poorer five-year overall survival compared to using no complementary treatment. It was also independently associated with a greater risk of death. The study also noted that patients who used both types of treatments often refused other aspects of recommended care like chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and/or hormone therapy.
The study provides important insights for doctors and providers to educate and help cancer patients make informed choices about their health. While complementary therapies can help to support patients experiencing the symptoms from cancer treatments, they are recommended to treat cancer alone.
Source: JAMA Oncology
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