Researchers from Yale School of Medicine defined conventional cancer treatments as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, whereas alternative therapies were any unproven treatment administered by non-medical personnel. They found that patients are increasingly refusing or delaying conventional cancer treatment in favor of alternative therapies.

As a result, their cancer is “advancing: either getting larger or spreading to lymph nodes or spreading to distant sites,” said Dr. Skyler Johnson, lead author of the study. “This is concerning, because your chance of cure decreases as the cancer grows and spreads.”

Results of the study, which was published August 10 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), suggested that patients who skipped or delayed conventional treatments to undergo alternative procedures had as much as a 5.7-fold increased risk of dying within 5 years compared to those who stuck with conventional medicine.

To illustrate these findings, the researchers noted that a breast cancer patient with stage I cancer has an almost 100% chance of surviving 5 years. However, if the disease is given time to progress to stage IV — where the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or another part of the body — that nearly 100% survival rate drops to a dismal 20%-25%.

Delaying conventional treatments may allow the disease to migrate and reach a terminal stage, which significantly decreases a patient’s ability to survive, the researchers said, who reported no conflicts of interest, though 2 of 3 co-authors received research funding from 21st Century Oncology, Johnson and Johnson, Medtronic and Pfizer.

Johnson and his co-authors concluded that there was no scientific evidence to advocate for alternative therapies, and that there needs to be “greater scrutiny of the use of [alternative medicine] for the initial treatment of cancer.”

Source: Ars Technica

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