Complementary and alternative therapies: Who uses them and why, their potential and their dangers

l symptoms, enhance well-being, and contribute to overall patient care".
Abstract no: 355 (14.15 hrs Friday 19 March, Hall 8)

Complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs) may have a role to play in palliation for cancer patients, but there is little evidence of their usefulness in the prevention or treatment of breast cancer, according to a professor of complementary medicine.

Professor Edzard Ernst told the conference: "If an effective CAM treatment or preventative measure emerged (say, a herbal medicine) it would instantly be taken up by mainstream oncology, as has happened with taxol, which comes from the yew tree. It follows, almost automatically, that all existing CAM 'cancer cures' are bogus.

"However, in palliation, our main aim is to improve quality of life and many CAM methods, such as massage, relaxation, aromatherapy and reflexology, are potentially useful for that purpose. They can ease the adverse effects of orthodox cancer therapies; for instance, acupuncture can reduce nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy."

Prof Ernst, from the Peninsula Medical School, UK, said that while many CAMS were promoted for cancer prevention or cure, there was scarce scientific data to support such claims. Examples included Essiac (a Canadian herbal mixture), Di Bella therapy (complex treatment developed by an Italian doctor), Hoxley formula (herbal mixture), mistletoe, laetrile (derived from the seeds of bitter almonds and apricots) and shark cartilage.

"Several of these alleged cancer 'cures' are associated with significant risks," he said. "Examples of risk include the adverse effects of herbal remedies, contamination or adulteration of herbal remedies, their interaction with prescribed drugs, and patients choosing to use an ineffective CAM instead of life-saving conventional treatment."
Abstract no: 358 (14.15 hrs Friday 19 March, Hall 8)


Contact: Emma Mason
Federation of European Cancer Societies

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