Legitimate Treatments for Cancer

QUESTION: I have just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I'm getting advice from friends and relatives to check into all types of different treatments they have heard about. How can you judge if various treatments for cancer are legitimate?

ANSWER: Treatments for cancer are based on years of research both in the lab and in clinical trials. Depending on the pathology of the cancer, stage of the disease, prior treatment, a person's overall physical condition treatment options are recommended. In some cases, only one specific cancer treatment may be generally accepted as appropriate. But in many cases, a variety of approaches might be used. Treatments for cancer are always evolving. New discoveries are made and old methods are modified or discarded.

In order to make educated decisions regarding specific cancer treatments, it is necessary to go beyond testimonials and promises. You want to understand what the treatment is all about. A legitimate treatment method meets certain standards; a questionable treatment does not meet any of them. These standards are:

  • The method was studied scientifically and shown to be more effective than no cancer treatment at all.
  • The benefits of the method clearly exceed any harm it might do (you may need to ask specifically what problems people experienced with the treatment).
  • Studies of the method have been properly conducted. An appropriate research design has been used, the studies have been subject to review by others knowledgeable in the field and a human subjects committee has given the study its approval. Treatments for cancer that are said to work only in the hands of one practitioner are questionable by definition. New scientific therapies are always made available through meetings, talks and publications to the entire community of scientists and researchers.

Discuss with your oncologist the cancer treatment options that are available to you to treat your disease, how side effects of cancer treatments will be managed, what other resources are available to help you through your treatment. There are several resources available to person's undergoing treatment for cancer; oncology nurses, social workers, dieticians, support groups etc. You can check with the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org or 1-800-ACS-2345), they can give you the listing of a local office, which can provide you with information about what resources are available in your area.

Note:  We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.

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