American Cancer Society's Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods, 2nd Edition

American Cancer Society's Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods, 2nd Edition

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by American Cancer Society, David Rosenthal, Ted Gansler

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2010 National Health Information Award, Silver
2010 National Indie Excellence Award, Medical
2010 Mom's Choice Award, Gold, Adult Books - Mind, Body & Spirit
2009 National Best Books Award, Health - Cancer

2010 Benjamin Franklin Award, Health, Wellness & Nutrition
2009 National Best Books Award,


2010 National Health Information Award, Silver
2010 National Indie Excellence Award, Medical
2010 Mom's Choice Award, Gold, Adult Books - Mind, Body & Spirit
2009 National Best Books Award, Health - Cancer

2010 Benjamin Franklin Award, Health, Wellness & Nutrition
2009 National Best Books Award, Health - Alternative Medicine

Written for consumers, patients, and families seeking reliable information about nontraditional therapies, this is a quick and easy guide to the latest information about complementary and alternative methods most commonly available to people with cancer. It includes more than 250 entries covering a broad range of topics, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, mind/body/spirit, diet and nutrition, physical touch, and biological methods. Each entry provides a synopsis of what the method involves and what effects can occur. Current research findings are explained in brief and understandable language, providing fast access to specific areas of interest.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This massive reference book spells out the evidence, or lack of it, for hundreds of therapies, as well as their possible side effects."  —Parade Magazine

Product Details

American Cancer Society, Incorporated
Publication date:
American Cancer Society Complete Guide t Series
Edition description:
Second Edition, Second edition
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 7.02(h) x 1.98(d)

Read an Excerpt

American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies

By Jill Russell

American Cancer Society / Health Promotions

Copyright © 2009 American Cancer Society
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-944235-71-3


How to Use this Book

If you are reading this book, it is probably because you or someone you care about has received a cancer diagnosis or is concerned about cancer. You or your loved one may have received advice and treatment from doctors, nurses, and other conventional health care providers. But you may be wondering if there is anything else you can do to feel better and improve your health.

If you have been thinking about trying a complementary or alternative therapy, you are not alone. Interest in this field has grown enormously, especially during the past decade. Americans spend billions of dollars on complementary and alternative therapies for a wide variety of diseases, ailments, and medical complaints, including cancer. The growing popularity of complementary and alternative therapies has had an enormous impact on every aspect of health care in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere in the developed world. The rise of complementary and alternative medicine has had a particular influence on people with cancer. While accurate figures are difficult to obtain, it is estimated that about half of all people living with cancer have sought some type of complementary or alternative therapy.

The next chapter will present some concepts and terminology to help you understand the field of complementary and alternative medicine and the types of research that scientists use to evaluate safety and effectiveness. We give an overview of how drugs and dietary supplements are regulated and marketed. We will suggest some general approaches to help you decide what might work for you and give tips for talking with your regular doctor and finding and choosing a complementary health care provider. And in Chapters 5 through 9, we will present information on common and not-so-common complementary and alternative methods of cancer care. Methods included in the book have been promoted for conditions related to cancer, its consequences, or effects related to treatment. The information is collected from many sources and distilled into a concise format that we hope you will find helpful.

Therapies are organized into the five categories listed below and listed alphabetically within each chapter. Methods have been categorized based on similar characteristics and how the treatment is administered or performed.

Chapter 5. Mind, Body, and Spirit Therapies: This chapter includes methods that focus on the connections between the mind, body, and spirit, and their powers for healing.

Chapter 6. Manual Healing and Physical Touch Therapies: This chapter includes treatment methods that involve touching, manipulation, or movement of the body. These techniques are based on the idea that problems in one part of the body often affect other parts of the body.

Chapter 7. Herb, Vitamin, and Mineral Therapies: This chapter contains plant-derived preparations, vitamins, and minerals that are used for therapeutic purposes. It is noted when chemicals extracted from plants are used rather than parts of the plant itself.

Chapter 8. Diet and Nutrition Therapies: This chapter includes dietary approaches and nutritional programs related to prevention and treatment.

Chapter 9. Pharmacologic and Biologic Therapies: This chapter provides information about substances that are synthesized and produced from chemicals or concentrated from plants or other living things.

Chapter 10 lists some resources to assist you in finding other reliable sources of information. In addition, the glossary (starting on page 847) defines many of the terms used throughout the book.

This book is intended to serve as a reference, not to be read from beginning to end. However, we recommend that you read the next few chapters first, particularly if you are unfamiliar with complementary and alternative therapies. Much of the first four chapters is intended to help you evaluate the information to follow.

If you do not find a particular therapy in the section you would expect, please consult the index (starting on page 869) to see if it is included elsewhere. In some cases, methods have been grouped together into broader categories that you may not immediately consider. If an entire chapter interests you, you may want to read through all of the entries contained in that chapter to gain a better understanding of that area of complementary or alternative care. Some methods contain only a few lines or short paragraphs because information on the therapy is limited or it is not widely available. In these cases, there was not enough scientific information to evaluate the evidence, so only a brief description is provided.

Sample Book Entry

All of the entries in Chapters 5-9 follow the same format, allowing a consistent presentation of information so the content can be quickly accessed from entry to entry.

How is it promoted for use?

This section discusses claims' advocates about the effectiveness of the therapy and their theories about how the method works. Claims about the method's value for conditions other than cancer may also be included.

What does it involve?

This section covers what the treatment method involves, how often it is administered, and in what forms the treatment is provided.

What is the history behind it?

This section explores the background of how, when, and by whom the method was developed.

What is the evidence?

This section explores the latest scientific research on each treatment method, as well as general conclusions about the effectiveness of the method based on scientific data.

Are there any possible problems or complications?

This section notes anything people should be aware of or concerned about, such as side effects, drug interactions, reports of death, or other adverse reactions.


A reference list of the resources used to compile each entry, specifically the most important information sources, can be found here. Readers may use this reference list and the resource guide in Chapter 10 to obtain more information. This list does not necessarily include every scientific journal article on a topic or all Web sites promoting a method. Doing so would increase the length of the book by several times. Instead, we have chosen the information sources we consider most useful, relevant, and reliable.

Complementary and alternative medicine includes a wide variety of therapies and types of care. Some have been shown to help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Others can be harmful. In addition, there is an immense amount of information available about complementary and alternative therapies — some legitimate, and some not.

Perhaps more than in any other aspect of wellness and health, choices about complementary and alternative care can be very personal. Your choices can be strongly influenced by your beliefs and values. This book offers information and tools to help anyone interested in nonconventional methods evaluate the information and evidence available. It will not tell you what to do or not do. Instead, our hope is that this guide can assist you in making informed choices about whether complementary or alternative care is right for you.


Defining and Evaluating Complementary and Alternative Therapies

You will encounter many terms in this book — some new, some familiar. The two most common words are complementary and alternative, but there are many other terms with which you should become familiar. This chapter introduces a vocabulary of complementary and alternative therapies and discusses how research is used to evaluate therapies' safety and effectiveness. Becoming comfortable with some of these terms and concepts will help you evaluate the descriptions of therapies later in the book. The more you understand, the better equipped you will be to evaluate information and make informed choices about your care.

How Complementary and Alternative Therapies Differ

The words complementary and alternative are often used interchangeably; however, there are important distinctions between the two terms.

Complementary therapies are those that patients use along with conventional medicine. Many of these therapies have been shown to help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life by lessening the side effects of conventional treatments or providing psychological and physical benefits to the patient.

Alternative therapies are unproven treatments that patients use instead of conventional therapy in an attempt to prevent, lessen, or cure disease. Alternative therapies may be harmful and, because they are used instead of conventional medicine, may delay treatments that are proven to be helpful.

Until the late 1990s, the term alternative was generally used to describe most of the therapies that are not part of conventional medicine. When the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established a special department to evaluate complementary and alternative therapies, it was originally named the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). In 1999, recognizing the distinction between complementary and alternative therapies, the NIH renamed the office the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). This terminology is also reflected in the name of the National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM), which was created in 1998.

The boundaries between complementary, alternative, and conventional methods are not always sharply defined and sometimes depend on the situation in which the treatment is used as much as the treatment itself. For example, scientifically conducted clinical trials have shown that arsenic trioxide is an effective drug for some forms of leukemia, so its use for promyelocytic leukemia would be considered conventional. Homeopathic practitioners may recommend highly diluted arsenic solutions for diarrhea, asthma, or anxiety, and use of arsenic in this context together with conventional medicine would be considered complementary. If an alternative practitioner recommended a homeopathic arsenic solution as the main treatment for lung cancer and advised the patient to avoid any conventional therapy, that would be alternative medicine.

Living With Evidence, Odds, and Uncertainty

Every day, we all make innumerable small decisions. In making these decisions, we use information, experience, and knowledge to estimate likely outcomes of our options. If we're planning to spend time outdoors, we may think about the possibility of rain. You might check the weather forecast in your newspaper or on the Internet. If the forecast shows a 100 percent chance of thunderstorms, most people will bring an umbrella. If the chance of precipitation is 0 percent, most people will not.

But what would you do if the probability of rain was 20 percent? Or 50 percent? If you are like most people, your answer will be, "It depends." It depends on your individual circumstances: where you are going, how you will get there, and what you are wearing, to name a few.

Similarly, decisions about medical care, particularly about complementary and alternative therapies, are individual and depend on many things: your body, your illness, your prognosis, your beliefs and values, and the available information about the safety and effectiveness of any treatment. In this chapter, we will help you understand various kinds of scientific evidence. In other chapters, we will review the evidence relevant to various complementary and alternative therapies. But every person is different, and choices about health care should reflect that.

Commonly Used Terms

The many different terms used to describe cancer treatments can be confusing. Here are some definitions of commonly used terms.

Proven or conventional treatments are evidence-based, mainstream, or standard medical treatments that have been tested following a strict set of research guidelines and found to be safe and effective. Articles detailing such research have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals — meaning that other physicians or scientists in the field evaluate the quality of the research study and decide whether the results will be published. Conventional drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA does not need to approve surgical procedures or radiation protocols, although it does approve the medical devices used in surgery or radiation therapy.

Investigation treatments are therapies currently being studied in a clinical trial. Clinical trials — research involving human subjects — determine whether a new treatment is effective and safe for patients. Before a drug or other treatment can be used regularly to treat patients, it is carefully studied and tested, first in the laboratory or in animals. After these studies are completed and the therapy is found safe and promising, it is then tested in clinical trials. If the therapy is found to be safe and effective, the FDA may approve it for regular use. Only then does the drug or therapy become part of the standard, conventional treatment.

• The term complementary is used to describe supportive methods that complement, or add to, conventional treatments. Examples might include meditation to reduce stress, peppermint or ginger tea for nausea, and guided imagery to help relieve stress and pain during medical procedures. Complementary methods help control symptoms and improve well-being.

Integrative therapy is a term now frequently used to describe the combined use of evidence-based proven therapies and complementary therapies. You have likely heard the term integrative oncology. Integrative medicine services are becoming part of cancer centers across the country.

• The terms unproven and untested can be confusing because they are sometimes used to refer to treatments that have little basis in scientific fact, while they may also refer to treatments or tests that are under investigation. In general, there is not adequate scientific evidence to support the use of unproven or untested treatments.

Alternative treatments are used instead of conventional treatments. They are either unproven because they have not been scientifically tested, or they have been disproved, that is, they have been tested and found to be ineffective. They may cause the patient to suffer because they are not helpful, cause delays in curative therapy, or actually are harmful.

Quackery refers to the promotion of methods that claim to prevent, diagnose, or cure cancer; however, they are known to be false or are unproven and likely to be false. These methods are often based on theories of disease and treatment that are contrary to conventional scientific ideas, and they may use patient testimonials as evidence of their effectiveness and safety. Many times, the treatment is claimed to be effective against other diseases as well as cancer.

Unconventional is a term used to cover all types of complementary and alternative treatments that fall outside the definition of proven, conventional therapies.

Nontraditional is used in the same way as unconventional to describe complementary and alternative therapies. However, some therapies that seem "nontraditional" to modern American or European physicians may have been used in certain cultures for thousands of years, such as traditional Chinese medicine or traditional Native American medicine. These medicines are often used in complementary or alternative therapies.

Questionable treatments are those that are unproven or untested therapies.

A Scientific View of Cancer

The beginning of the twentieth century is widely viewed by medical historians as the turning point in cancer treatment. There was important progress in understanding, preventing, and treating cancer before that time, of course, but progress has greatly accelerated in the past hundred years. Researchers and physicians began sharing knowledge with each other more than ever, and medical institutions became centers of research.

During the early years of cancer research, scientists began to realize that the disease had no one single cause. Cancer is many diseases with many causes. Scientists also began investigating various treatment methods in the hope of finding ways to treat cancer that were safe and effective.

Today, researchers continue to search for causes of cancer and strive to find new and better ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and, in some cases, even cure the disease. What's different, however, is how they go about their work.

Most of what we know about cancer is the result of research, defined as a trained inquiry or experiment that follows what is known as the scientific method. Scientists ask a question, design experiments to answer that question, collect data, interpret the results, and apply those results to treat disease and improve health care.

According to the NCCAM, complementary and alternative medicine should be investigated by the same rigorous scientific methods used in conventional medicine. Substantial progress has been made in recent years to make the field of integrative oncology much more scientifically rigorous than it had been. This is an approach strongly supported by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and a growing number of complementary and conventional health care providers and researchers.


Excerpted from American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies by Jill Russell. Copyright © 2009 American Cancer Society. Excerpted by permission of American Cancer Society / Health Promotions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

The American Cancer Society is an organization committed to fighting cancer through balanced programs of research, education, patient service, advocacy, and rehabilitation. Its goals emphasize prevention, early detection, and screening; comprehensive treatment information; answers to questions about insurance, money, and planning for the future; and strategies for coping with the physical symptoms and emotional effects of cancer. They are based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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