Desperation drives patients

or the patient to give up prescribed therapies.

"Understand that your patients are desperate. If they want to try alternative medicine, advise them which ones carry what risk and which are safe to use in conjunction with conventional therapies," he said.

Reflexology and aromatherapy ease the stress associated with cancer. Acupuncture, for example, can reduce the nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy. The role of such procedures in palliative and supportive care to improve the quality of a patient's life could be very important. Higher quality research into their effects is also needed.

The Internet has made these so-called remedies far more accessible. While Professor Ernst believes that there are very good and very dedicated practitioners of complementary and alternative therapies, he acknowledged the fact that there are rogues in the business of promoting cures, who exploit vulnerable people both financially and emotionally.

As a warning to patients, he said "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."


Contact: Gracemarie Bricalli
European Society for Medical Oncology

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