Whether used in conjunction with or as an alternative to standard prostate cancer treatments, complementary and alternative medicine is not without risk. Many patients mistake natural as safe and as such, pursue alternative prostate cancer treatments like diet, vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements without first consulting a physician. In fact, researchers of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania investigating the use of CAM therapies in prostate cancer patients, found that almost half initiated alternative treatments without their doctor's knowledge.1 What's more, scientific evidence confirming the effectiveness of prostate cancer alternative medicine is lacking and thus, poses the risk of disease progression should alternative methods be used in place of standard prostate cancer care.
Risks of Biologically-Based (Natural) Prostate Cancer Treatment
Over-the-counter herbs, vitamins, and nutritional supplements are not verified by the Federal Food and Drug Administration prior to sale. This is not to say that biologically-based prostate cancer treatments are dangerous, but rather that side effects and potential harmful interactions may not be thoroughly explored. As mentioned by the National Cancer Institute, "A Natural Product Does Not Mean a Safe Product." Before initiation of a prostate cancer diet, patients should consult with a professional to ensure needed nutritional requirements are met. More importantly, before exploring herbs, vitamins, diet, and nutritional supplements as a complement to traditional treatment, physicians overseeing care should be made aware of alternative treatment intentions. Plant-based products, like herbs, can have an impact on traditional treatment effectiveness. What's more, high doses of vitamins are known to alter the outcomes of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Lastly, like a drug, the ingestion of nutritional supplements and herbs affect the body and organs and should be taken in accordance with recommended dosage guidelines.
Alternative Treatments for Prostate Cancer: Finding the Right Practitioner
As a patient undergoing a prostatectomy values experience when choosing a surgeon, practitioners of alternative medicine should be held to the same standards. Massage, chiropractic therapy, biofeedback, meditation, acupuncture, and other modalities of complementary and alternative medicine have been reported to alleviate the stresses, symptoms, and side effects of prostate cancer and conventional treatment, but only when performed or guided by experienced professionals. Prostate cancer patients considering practitioners of complementary and alternative therapies should ask important questions concerning credentials, licensing, and experience before proceeding with treatment.
The Use of Alternative Medicine as a Prostate Cancer Cure
Traditional prostate cancer treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and hormone therapy have scientific evidence backing claims of effectiveness. Complementary and alternative medicine, by definition, lacks this scientific validation and as such, holds the risk of the unknown. While modalities of prostate cancer treatment, like diet, nutritional supplements, biological remedies, and eastern practices of care may appear promising, their effectiveness in halting disease progression or obtaining a cure is as of yet, scientifically unproven.