Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Complementary and Alternative Medicine For patients, families, and healthcare workers, navigating through the myriad of available therapies for cancer can be a daunting task. This is made more complex by the inherent heterogeneity in the types and causes of cancer. While traditional (standard) therapies for cancer such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery remain the mainstays of cancer treatment, alternative therapies for cancer have garnered interest from all stakeholders for their promise as perhaps not primary but complementary therapies. There are many terms that describe these alternative therapies, including “holistic”, “complementary”, and “naturopathic”. A commonly used moniker that seems to encompass many of these terms is “Complementary and Alternative Medicine”, also termed “CAM”. Interestingly, the term CAM seems to be somewhat a paradox. Complementary seems to suggest one therapy in addition to another, while alternative implies one therapy instead of another. Therein may lie some of confusion associated with this term. This confusion contributes to the controversy surrounding the use of CAM in many diseases, including cancer. Complementary and Alternative Medicine includes such modalities as acupuncture, dietary modification, exercise, hypnosis, and yoga. For example, a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma about six months ago. In addition to traditional chemotherapy, he embarked on an aggressive regimen that included dietary optimization (for example, nutritional support), exercise, and positive thinking. This routine accelerated once the chemotherapy began, and even more so in advance of his stem cell (bone marrow) transplant a few weeks ago. While the typical hospital stay after bone marrow transplant is about 30 days, his stay lasted only 12 days. This was a record...