Researchers have found that turning to alternative cancer treatments may increase the mortality rates of cancer patients.
Cancer patients have a choice in how to treat their cancer. Some can opt for chemotherapy and the standard scientifically proven cancer treatments. Others choose to supplement their treatment with alternative medicine. Some, however, opt to undergo just alternative treatments and not the more traditional forms of treatment. A new study seeks to explore the effects and effectiveness of alternative treatments compared to chemotherapy and other proven treatments.
Alternative treatments are treatments with little to no evidence that they actually work as intended. While some alternative treatments may be harmless or even possibly effective, some are likely to be ineffective. It's important to note that the researchers aren't saying that patients shouldn't ever opt to undergo alternative treatments, but that they shouldn't opt for just alternative treatments alone. Chemotherapy and other proven cancer treatments are still the best bet when it comes to having higher chances of surviving cancer.
Researchers studied the cases of 840 patients who had breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer. Information on these patients is present in the National Cancer Database (NCDB), which offers details on the treatment that patients in the database underwent. Researchers collected data on 280 patients who chose to undergo alternative cancer treatments only instead of the more conventional ones. They also collected the data of 560 cancer patients who chose to undergo conventional cancer treatments.
The patients all received their diagnoses from 2004 to 2013. According to the available data, 78.3% of the patients who underwent conventional treatments were still alive after five years. However, just 54.7% of people who underwent alternative treatments instead were still alive within the same time frame.
It seemed that the types of cancer were also a factor in the patients' chances of survival. Patients with lung cancer were twice as likely to die in five years if they chose alternative treatments. Meanwhile, patients with colorectal cancer were four times as likely to die. Patients with breast cancer had the worst odds, being five times more likely to die if they chose alternative treatments over conventional ones.
“It’s important to note that when it comes to alternative cancer therapies, there is just so little known,” says Dr. Cary Ross, one of the study's authors. While it's possible that alternative treatments can work, or may even be a better option, it's best to wait for proof. It's understandable that undergoing conventional cancer treatments can be a terrible experience, and cancer patients may find this experience daunting. Some of the patient's friends or family may have also had a bad experience with chemo or hormone therapy, which colors the patient's view of the said treatments. However, scientifically proven cancer treatments are our best bet.
If you or a loved one has cancer, one thing that's good to remember about conventional treatments is that they've had several improvements over the years. Plus, they have empirical proof of what they can do and how they work. Alternative cancer treatments, however, don't have enough evidence to back up their claims.
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