Posts tagged ‘Leukemia’

July 14, 2011

Complementary Therapies and Cancer

Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy hosting our Winter Workshop series with health professionals in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Palmerston North.

This year we’ve been fortunate to have Professor Shaun Holt as our guest speaker. Shaun is an Adjunct Professor at Victoria University, runs a clinical trial unit Clinicanz and is a Medical Research Fellow at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand. He has conducted extensive research into the use of complementary therapies to treat cancer and his results have proved fascinating, if somewhat controversial in complementary medical circles.

Shaun is not afraid to tell it like it is. He has had well-publicised battles with both the chiropractic and homeopathic communities due to the lack of evidence that these treatments are effective in helping cancer patients.

His evidence-based research indicates that while around half of all cancer patients seek advice from complementary practitioners most people have limited knowledge of the kinds of therapies available and their effectiveness. This is a real concern and it is clear that there needs to be further education particularly among health professionals around this topic. This has been reflected in the feedback from the attendees at our workshops who have been really grateful to find out more about complementary therapy.

So can complementary therapies help, or do more harm than good when it comes to treating cancer? After listening to Shaun’s presentation it appears that there are some that are harmful, some that are helpful and some that are simply ineffective.

It is completely understandable that cancer patients will do anything possible to maximise their quality of life and chances of recovery but it does appear that at times certain complementary therapies can interfere with medical treatment. That is why it is really important that if patients are receiving complementary therapy they let their specialist doctors know.

There is, however, certainly a place for complementary medicine in the treatment of cancer. Shaun’s research indicates that around five per cent of complementary therapies have real merit in helping address the symptoms and quality of life of cancer sufferers. These therapies include acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, art therapy, yoga, certain herbs and vitamins.

What must be stressed however, is that complementary therapies can not cure cancer, and it’s really important that patients do not delay seeking conventional medical treatment which may save their lives!

It’s also really important that the media report the effectiveness of complementary therapies in treating cancer correctly so they don’t give patients and their families false hope. Nearly every week there is a new story about a new cure for cancer. Shaun brought up the example of Lyprinol. It was reported in media around the world that this extract from green-lipped mussels could kill cancer cells. While this did in fact happen in test tubes there was no evidence whatsoever to show that it could kill cancer cells in people.

The Winter Workshop series has been fascinating to listen to and a Shaun has been a great source of information for all those who attended.

We recommend that patients and families call their local LBF Support Services Coordinator if they have any questions regarding complementary therapies. We also have a copies of Shaun’s book ‘Complementary Therapies for Cancer – What works what doesn’t and how to tell the difference’ in our resource library, for loan.