Advising patients who seek complementary and alternative medical therapies for cancer

Author: Weiger WA//Smith M//Boon H//Richardson MA//Kaptchuk TJ//Eisenberg DM
Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Conference/Journal: Ann Intern Med
Date published: 2002
Other: Volume ID: 137 , Issue ID: 11 , Pages: 889-903 , Word Count: 183

Many patients with cancer use complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies. Physicians need authoritative information on CAM therapies to responsibly advise patients who seek these interventions. This article summarizes current evidence on the efficacy and safety of selected CAM therapies that are commonly used by patients with cancer. The following major categories of interventions are covered: dietary modification and supplementation, herbal products and other biological agents, acupuncture, massage, exercise, and psychological and mind-body therapies. Two categories of evidence on efficacy are considered: possible effects on disease progression and survival and possible palliative effects. In evaluating evidence on safety, two types of risk are considered: the risk for direct adverse effects and the risk for interactions with conventional treatments. For each therapy, the current balance of evidence on efficacy and safety points to whether the therapy may be reasonably recommended, accepted (for example, dietary fat reduction in well-nourished patients with breast or prostate cancer), or discouraged (for example, high-dose vitamin A supplementation). This strategy allows the development of an approach for providing responsible, evidence-based, patient-centered advice to persons with cancer who seek CAM therapies.