Alternative cancer treatments describes alternative and complementary treatments for cancer that have not been approved by the government agencies responsible for the regulation of therapeutic goods. They include diet and exercise, chemicals, herbs, devices, and manual procedures. The treatments may be untested or unsupported by evidence, either because no proper testing has been conducted, or because testing did not demonstrate statistically significant efficacy. Concerns have been raised about the safety of some of them.
Alternative cancer treatments are typically contrasted with experimental cancer treatments, which are treatments for which experimental testing is currently underway. All currently approved chemotherapeutic cancer treatments were considered experimental cancer treatments before their safety and efficacy testing was completed.
Such therapies can be categorized broadly into three groups: alternative treatments offered as a substitute to standard medical treatment; alternative treatments as an addition to standard treatment; and treatments proposed in the past that have been found in clinical trials to be useless and/or unsafe. Some of these obsolete or disproven treatments continue to be promoted, sold, and used.
Since the 1940s, medical science has developed chemotherapy, radiation therapy, adjuvant therapy and the newer targeted therapies, as well as refining surgical techniques for removing cancer. Before the development of these modern, evidence-based treatments, 90% of cancer patients died within five years. With modern mainstream treatments, only 34% of cancer patients die within five years. However, while generally prolonging life or permanently curing cancer, most effective, mainstream forms of cancer treatment have side effects ranging from unpleasant to fatal, and permanent cures are not guaranteed. These side effects and the uncertainty of success create appeal for alternative treatments for cancer, which purport to cause fewer side effects or to increase survival rates.
Alternative cancer treatments have typically not undergone properly conducted, well-designed clinical trials, or the results have not been published due to publication bias (a refusal to publish results showing a treatment does not work). Among those that have been published, the methodology is often poor. A 2006 systematic review of 214 articles covering 198 clinical trials of alternative cancer treatments concluded that almost none conducted dose-ranging studies, which are necessary to ensure that the patients are being given a useful amount of the treatment. These kinds of treatments appear and vanish frequently, and have throughout history.
Read more about Alternative Cancer Treatments: Complementary Versus Alternative Treatments, People Who Choose Alternative Treatments, Examples of Alternative Treatment, Examples of Complementary Therapy, Alternative Theories of Cancer, Regulatory Action
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