Many people diagnosed with incurable brain tumors turn to complementary therapies to slow the growth of their cancer or relieve side effects like fatigue and depression, new research shows.
The study, published in the Dec. 14 issue of the journal Neurology, included completed questionnaires from 621 patients with glioma brain tumors who had received conventional treatment, including surgery,chemotherapy, or radiation, at six cancer centers in Germany.
More than 40% of the patients reported using some kind of alternative or complementary medicine in addition to their conventional care.
Linda A. Lee, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center in Baltimore said “In the U.S., it’s been estimated that 80% of cancer patients use some form of complementary therapy.”
According to study author Dr. Oliver Heese, younger patients, women and those with higher education levels were the most likely to use alternative therapies than older patients, men and those with less education. The most common reasons cited for trying alternative therapies include building up the body’s ability to fight the cancer and feeling like they were able to do something to help themselves.
“The majority of people are turning to alternative treatments not because they are dissatisfied with their conventional care, but because they wish to add something beneficial to their care,” said Dr. Heese in an American Academy of Neurology news release.
Thirty-nine percent of the patients surveyed used homeopathy, also known as homeopathic medicine, a whole medical system that was developed in Germany more than 200 years ago, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself by giving very small doses of highly diluted substances.
Homeopathic remedies are regulated in the same manner as over-the-counter drugs and the FDA requires that they meet certain legal standards for strength, purity and packaging.
Thirty-one percent of the survey respondents used vitamin supplements and another 29% tried psychological therapies. Other common therapies tried by at least 10% of the respondents include mineral supplementation, Boswelia acids, special diets, mistletoe, acupuncture, phytotherapy, shielding methods, and magic.
Most of the users (59.8%) thought their general condition had been improved by CAM therapies, and very few reported any side effects.
Heese O, et al “Complementary therapy use in patients with glioma: an observational study” Neurology 2010; 75: 2229-2235. The study was supported by the German Cancer Aid and carried out by the German Glioma Network.