What's the difference between Alternative, Complementary and Integrated Medicine?
Do they really work?
How do I find out more?
If you've ever had cancer or a loved one with cancer- you know that folks with suggestions of alternative treatments seem to crawl out of the woodwork. Have you tried coffee enemas? I had a friend's cousin's step aunt who cured her stage four cancer doing that alone! I take megadoses of vitamin C and D and have never had cancer- have you thought about that?
When you have LFS, not only do you have to consider cancer and consider it a lot, you have to consider whether or not conventional treatments will work for you and your mutant p53. How do we do this? We refer to scientific evidence. Just as certain chemotherapy or radiation treatments do not work well with mutant cancers, certain alternative treatments may not either.
Alternative medicine is the practice of healing that isn't necessarily based on evidence gathered through scientific research. This includes many practices such as acupuncture, chiropractics, homeopathy and naturopathy.
Complementary Alternative Medicine(CAM) uses alternative methods along side conventional treatment, thought to help the benefits of conventional treatment. Integrated Medicine is when Conventional and Alternative medicine are used together.
So how does Alternative Medicine play into Living with LFS? Like chemotherapy and many conventional cancer treatments, each person's body will respond different to various therapies, drugs, foods, or supplements. Many major cancer centers, such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Mayo Clinic, MDAnderson, Huntsman Clinic and Dana Farber have Complementary or Integrative programs. The effectiveness of treatment often has a foundation in a person's belief system. Obviously more and more people are believing in and finding comfort in alternative treatments if major cancer centers make the programs more accessible.
Have you ever run across someone who swears that chemotherapy saved them? Or that believe specialized surgeon expertly removed their cancerous tissue? Or someone who swears that chemotherapy was the worst experience ever and nearly killed them? Have you ever talked to someone that had cancerous tissue removed by a trusted surgeon and thought they "got it all" but they were saddled with a recurrence years later? Alternative therapies are no different. For every person that swears acupuncture alleviated their pain, there will be someone who felt nothing but little pokes.
There are many who swear by routine energy work or adjustments from a chiropractor and plenty who feel that it is just plain quackery. Just as you have to research your conventional treatments and doctors, you have to do the same with naturopathic doctors(ND) and integrative medicine practitioners. Naturopathic doctors are trained in a four year post graduate program that covers everything from basic medical practices, to natural remedies, botanics, psychology and counseling. Only 17 states require practicing ND's to be certified from an accredited institution and follow the basic principles,
- First, do no harm.
- Co-operate with the healing powers of nature.
- Address the fundamental causes of disease.
- Heal the whole person through individualized treatment.
- Teach the principles of healthy living and preventive medicine.
Just because conventional treatments are based in scientific evidence does not mean they will work for everyone. Just because something is "natural" does not mean it is good for you. Living with LFS, we know a lot about not fitting into the standards of care. It is refreshing to see many cancer centers offering the option of complementary medicine and taking some of the guesswork out of the process. So much of a person's comfort in treatment depends on how you relate to the provider, how they relate to you and what your needs are. Sometimes the only way to know whether or not something will work for you is to try it.
Are you Living LFS and have alternative medicine experiences? Please share in the comment section below!
Resources and to find out if Alternatives and Complements are right for you:
How to find a Naturopathic Doctor : American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://nccam.nih.gov
Mayo Clinic Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/in-depth/alternative-medicine/art-20045267
Memorial Sloan Kettering - Integrated Medicine site www.mskcc.org
MDAnderson Integrative Medicine Program here
Huntsman Clinic Integrative Medicine Program here