V. Assistance Concerning Complementary
and Alternative Medicine

As Gary Coody, R.Ph., the National Health Fraud Coordinator and a Consumer Safety Officer with the FDA has observed, “Anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in. There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure.”

Fortunately, many scientific studies of unconventional remedies have now been completed or are under way.

“Advertisements and other promotional materials touting bogus cancer ‘cures’ have probably been around as long as the printing press,” says Cody. “However the Internet has compounded the problem by providing the peddlers of these often dangerous products a whole new outlet.” (9)

How then can cancer patients tell the difference between quackery and fraud as opposed toan unconventional remedy that offers a reasonable prospect of benefit without an unreasonable risk of harm? There can be only one answer---any proposed treatment must pass objective tests using accepted scientific methods. Fortunately, many scientific studies of unconventional remedies have now been completed or are under way.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the agency within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that sponsors and conducts research to study complementary and alternative medicine practices. By definition, complementary medicine is used in combination with the conventional medicine practiced by medical doctors and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.

The National Cancer Institute and NCCAM have funded a number of clinical trials to evaluate complementary and alternative therapies for cancer. Some have already found a place in cancer treatment not as cures, but as complementary therapies that may help patients feel better and recover faster. Some have been thoroughly discredited. Many others are still under study. 

If you want to consider complementary and alternative therapies, you should ask whether there are any favorable results from clinical trials and if so, what the risks and side effects are and whether a therapy will interfere with conventional treatment. Medical advocate help is available here to research these questions and obtain information which you may discuss with your treating physician.

9. FDA Consumer Health Information. Beware of Online Cancer Fraud. June 17, 2008.