A cancer diagnosis is nothing anyone wants to receive, no matter how treatable it is.
The good news, if you can find any in such diagnoses, is that western medicine has come a long way in treating the scourge of cancer, and thanks to the tireless efforts of medical researchers, newer and better treatments are developed every year. Why anyone would choose to forego, or lessen the treatments they get from their mainstream doctor in favor of “alternative” treatments is anyone’s guess, though it may be their ultimate prerogative.
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A study released by JAMA Oncology last October, however, could give some cancer patients pause, before choosing a homeopathic or woo-tastic, herbal enhanced treatment plan.
The study showed that patients who chose alternative remedies, like traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy, were more likely to pick and choose from conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery, likely figuring that their alternative treatments would fill in the gaps. (Big Think)
So essentially, the risk in choosing homeopathic or alternative treatment plans for your cancer comes from thinking that you can choose them over traditional medical treatment options.
“Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about the role of complementary therapies,” Skyler Johnson, lead author of the new study, told The Independent. “Although they may be used to support patients experiencing symptoms from cancer treatment, it looks as though they are either being marketed, or understood to be effective [as] cancer treatments.”
Even more troubling is that alternative treatments are a very lucrative industry, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. The market for alternative treatments generates billions in revenue every year.
“Its growth has been attributed to its increased availability and marketing as well as congruence with patients’ beliefs, values, and philosophies regarding their health, especially the desire for direct self-autonomy,” the study authors wrote.
That doesn’t mean that alternative treatments don’t hold any value. They can greatly improve how your body reacts to the treatments and medications. It’s just that they don’t do anything to actually fight off the cancer. Sadly, an alarming number of cancer patients — about 33% — still believe that alternative cancer cures exist, and twice as many think they actually prolong your life.
Regardless, about one-third of cancer patients said they believed alternative treatments could cure cancer, while two-thirds said the treatments could prolong life.
Basically, if you are diagnosed with cancer, feel free to smoke pot to alleviate the side effects of your chemotherapy or radiation. Just don’t go thinking that hoobing that doobie will “cure” anything. In fact, this study says you’re “twice as likely” to die if you start sublimating medical treatments with non-traditional remedies.
One pretty interesting finding in the study are the demographics of those who tended to choose alternative treatments over conventional ones. It’s not uneducated hillbillies, either, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s upper class, fairly well-educated females that choose those kinds of treatments more.
The study, which analyzed the cancer history of 1,290 patients, found that cancer patients who chose more alternative over conventional treatments tended to be women who were young, educated, of a higher socioeconomic status, and, interestingly, lived in the Pacific or Intermountain West regions of the United States.
JAMA’s study doesn’t rule using alternative therapies or treatments; it just reiterates that they largely help alleviate conventional medicines side effects, and they stress that doctors have an open discussion about these alternative treatments to keep patients aware that they should be used in conjunction with western medicine, not in lieu of it.
“Given the hesitance on behalf of patients to disclose nonmedical therapy to their clinicians,health care professionals need to be proactive in discussing CM [complementary medicine] and adherence to conventional medicine treatment with their patients,” they wrote.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.