This Medical Mistake Is Killing Cancer Patients

Complementary therapies may sound good, but they don’t cure cancer

(Maggie Fox, NBC News) Cancer patients who choose alternative medicine over standard, proven cancer treatments are more likely to die, researchers reported Thursday.

Complementary medicine did no apparent harm if people used it alongside conventional surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, the researchers found.

But when people opted out of proven treatments to choose herbs, homeopathy or other alternative treatments, they were twice as likely to die of their cancer.

Doctors and the Food and Drug Administration have warned for years that unproven treatments may lure patients away from legitimate therapy that can save their lives.

But it’s one thing to say that a treatment has not been shown to help, and it’s another to show for sure that it doesn’t.

“It’s shocking, the lack of comparative data that’s out there,” said Dr. James Yu of the Yale Cancer Center.

Yu and his team set out to show whether people who use complementary therapies are hurting their chances of surviving cancer.

They looked at the medical records of nearly 2 million cancer patients. Not many admitted using complementary medicine, or had it noted in their records, but 258 did.

Their cases were compared with the cases of more than 1,000 patients who did not use complementary or alternative medicine.

Those who chose alternatives such as herbs, homeopathy, naturopathy or Chinese medicine were also more likely to refuse at least some standard cancer treatment, Yu’s team reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Oncology.

Seven percent of those who chose complementary treatments refused surgery, for instance, they found — compared with just 0.1 percent of patients who just went with standard treatment.

More than a third declined chemotherapy or hormone therapy, and half refused radiation therapy.

“If you could cure cancer with baking soda, who wouldn’t want to do that?” Read the full story at NBC News.