Alternative cancer treatments  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Alternative cancer treatments are alternative or 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 are not supported 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. Some treatments that have been proposed in the past have been found in clinical trials to be useless or unsafe. Some of these obsolete or disproven treatments continue to be promoted, sold, and used. Promoting or marketing such treatments is illegal in most of the developed world including the United States and European Union.

A distinction is typically made between complementary treatments which do not disrupt conventional medical treatment, and alternative treatments which may replace conventional treatment. Alternative cancer treatments are typically contrasted with experimental cancer treatments – which are treatments for which experimental testing is underway – and with complementary treatments, which are non-invasive practices used alongside other treatment. All approved chemotherapeutic cancer treatments were considered experimental cancer treatments before their safety and efficacy testing was completed.

Since the 1940s, medical science has developed chemotherapy, radiation therapy, adjuvant therapy and the newer targeted therapies, as well as refined 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 mainstream forms of cancer treatment generally prolong life or permanently cure cancer, most treatments also have side effects ranging from unpleasant to fatal, such as pain, blood clots, fatigue, and infection. These side effects and the lack of a guarantee that treatment will be successful 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 of a treatment outside that journal's focus area, guidelines or approach). 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.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alternative cancer treatments" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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