Monday, August 13, 2007

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Many people have asked if I believe that alternative medicine can cure lymphoma. Some use the term “alternative” while others use “complementary.” The terms actually mean different things. Alternative medicine replaces standard treatments while complementary medicine is exactly that: it complements standard treatments.

I am skeptical about alternative medicine. With little or no scientific proof that it works, I would personally prefer to undergo treatments that have been studied and proven.

Complementary medicine is a different story. It can include everything from herbs to guided imagery, and I believe that integrating some of these practices with standard treatments can certainly be helpful. In fact, many institutions are now recognizing the value of complementary medicine, but I do think we have to be careful.

A couple of years ago, a woman undergoing chemotherapy came to our support group which is specifically for lymphoma patients and is moderated by a nurse practitioner who specializes in lymphoma and who is very open to complementary therapies. The patient was using an herbal cleanser to rid her body of the poisons she was sure that chemo was leaving behind. I can’t remember now what the woman was using, but our moderator knew exactly what it was and told her to stop immediately because it was diluting the effectiveness of the chemo.

There is an obvious lesson here. Unwittingly, we may take something that could potentially diminish the very results we are trying to achieve with our mainstream treatments, so if we’re going to use complementary therapies, we should discuss them with our oncologists. That would be the safest way to use complementary therapies most effectively.

There are some good links to various complementary and alternative medicine sites at:

Happy Monday!


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