1 out of 1000 Filipinos has cancer. Based on a Datamonitor 2002, 80% of patients world use complementary or alternative medicines for cancer. This wide usage among patients and the fear of the general public of the killer disease has made alternative treatments for cancer a billion dollar industry. In the past decade, several “wonder drugs” and herbal supplements became big hits in the Philippines. The Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PCMO) is concerned with this development as many patients stop traditional cancer treatments in favor of alternative treatments. They advise that you have to consult your doctor before considering alternative medicines for cancer.
National Cancer Consciousness Week
The Department of Health (DOH) celebrates National Cancer Consciousness Week every third week of January. This year, Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PCMO) is focused on proper information dissemination regarding alternative medicines for cancer. In the country, Cancer is 3rd in incidence just behind communicable and cardiovascular diseases. Because of its high level of incidence, several companies came out with herbal and food supplements that claim effective results against cancer at a fraction of the cost of traditional treatment which could involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Complementary and Alternative Medicines for Cancer
In line with the celebration of National Cancer Consciousness Week, the local chapter of PCMO held a lay forum on Understanding Complementary and Alternative Medicines for
Cancer. It was held at Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue and it was attended by the Medical Oncologists of Cebu, Media Practitioners, and Cancer Survivors. The forum focused on treating cancer as well as the complementary and alternative treatments for cancer that works.
What I learned from the Forum:
- Consult your doctor before going into complementary and alternative medicines for cancer. Cebu has many highly qualified medical oncologists. They are up-to-date when it comes to the latest advances in cancer treatment. Some of them even had residency in the United States. They can advise patients about risk factors and on the effectivity of the complementary and alternative medicines for cancer.
- Complementary Treatments are good for patients but it should not be taken as a replacement for the traditional treatment. Complementary treatments are devised to complement the medical procedures like chemotherapy and radiation. Examples of complementary treatment are acupuncture, massages, meditation, and yoga. These can actually help the patients deal with some symptoms of the disease like chronic fatigue.
- A lot of Alternative Medicines for Cancer have no therapeutic claims meaning it cannot be used as a drug and because of aggressive marketing, many patients still forego traditional treatment and solely rely on these. Many “medicines” claim to be effective in fighting cancer using anecdotal evidence and incomplete testimonials. Some herbal supplements have herb-drug interactions that can even be life-threatening.
- Chong Hua Mandaue has one of the most comprehensive Cancer treatment facility in the country. They have CT scans that are exclusive for cancer patients and they also have a Trilogy Radiation System which is all-in-one machine than can do X-rays, CT scan, and image-guided radiation therapy.
Cancer is a tough disease not only for the patients but also for the family. Treatments may be expensive but the disease is beatable. Cebu has many doctors as well as other qualified professionals who can help in cancer survivorship. When these experts say that there is a danger in relying too much on unproven alternative medicines for cancer, I think we should at least listen to them. Do not be afraid to ask your oncologist about information on the developments on cancer treatment. You may also check out PCMO’s website for more information: http://psmo.org.ph/.