I have been following a recent debate among the myeloma community: Is it a good idea for a myeloma patient to try alternative medicine? Several readers seemed to be confusing alternative medicine with complementary medicine. Did you know that there is a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine? I didn’t!
A caregiver emailed this synopsis to me a few days ago. Read it and meet me on the other side with questions or comments:
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard care. Standard care is what medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and allied health professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, practice.
Complementary medicine is used together with standard medical care. An example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.
Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical care. An example is treating heart disease with chelation therapy (which seeks to remove excess metals from the blood) instead of using a standard approach.
The claims that CAM treatment providers make can sound promising. However, researchers do not know how safe many CAM treatments are or how well they work. Studies are underway to determine the safety and usefulness of many CAM practices.
To minimize the health risks of a CAM treatment
- Discuss it with your doctor. It might have side effects or interact with other medicines
- Find out what the research says about it
- Choose CAM practitioners carefully
- Tell all of your doctors and practitioners which CAM and standard treatments you use
NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
I would like to make an additional point. Not only do researchers and physicians often “not know how safe many CAM treatments are–or how well they work–our doctors rarely know when or how much of a given herb or supplement to use.
Cancer patients sometimes search for alternatives to western medicine. Nutrition is a powerful tool in the battle against cancer. But it is rarely effective alone. Hence the word “complementary” has emerged as a code word for the best of both worlds, especially when it comes to multiple myeloma.
Here are links to a pair of excellent, in-depth reports from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website:
I will revisit this important topic tomorrow, once we’re all up-to-speed. As always, best of luck in your myeloma journey; feel good and keep smiling! Pat