Posts Tagged ‘complementary and alternative medicine’

Mistletoe treatment believed to provide relief for cancer patients

11 Dec 2008 by under News, People, Research/Treatment

mistletoe 150x150 Mistletoe treatment believed to provide relief for cancer patientsAs part of her cancer treatments, or more accurately in response to her cancer treatments, our friend in the UK, Debbie Brewer, began a treatment in May. Debbie was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2006, and is currently receiving treatment, for which she travels to Germany.

Mistletoe is in fairly widespread use in Europe as a complementary therapy in cancer care. It is given in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, to strengthen the body’s immune system and build its natural defenses. It is believed mistletoe therapy can help cancer patients cope with the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Mistletoe is considered an anthroposophical medicine, which takes into account a total view of the human body and the human being, including physical constitution, the life force, the consciousness and the ego or free will. Mistletoe is harvested from different trees, with different types of mistletoe having different uses. According to the American Cancer Society, the type of mistletoe used in this therapy grows on species of trees native to England, Europe and western Asia. It is NOT the type of mistletoe commonly seen in the U.S. Mistletoe therapy is only available in clinical trials in the United States.

The extract, which comes from the plant’s leaves and twigs but not its berries, is generally given as an injection and after an initial professional application patients can do the treatment themselves at home. Debbie began her mistletoe treatment at The Park Attwood Clinic, which still oversees the process, although she administers her own injections now.

Debbie says she learned about the treatments from a couple who visited her web site, Mesothelioma & Me. She began the mistletoe therapy at the same time as her chemoembolization treatment, which uses targeted chemotherapy applied directly to her tumor and contained with the tumor. For about two years, she also has been struggling with alopecia, which had caused her to lose large patches of her hair.

“Since I started the mistletoe and the chemoembolization, I have noticed within the last two months my hair has grown back and is its natural color,” she wrote to me in an email. “The mistletoe boosts the immune system and also is very good at quelling the side effects of the chemo, although the side effects with chemoembolization are not as bad as the normal chemo.” She said mistletoe is offered on the German health care system, but it is not recognized by the UK system.

Debbie gives herself the mistletoe injections twice a week.

“I would have to say that a lot of the benefits I have had over the last five treatments is down to the mistletoe,” she says. “It works very well alongside the chemo treatment.”

She left today to travel to Germany for the sixth round of her chemoembolization treatments, and will learn the results of the fifth round, which she received November 6. So far, she has experienced tumor shrinkage after each round of chemoembolization.


Blog explores alternative cancer treatments

10 Jul 2008 by under People, Research/Treatment

Today I came across a blog that explores alternative treatments for cancer, of all types. Our friend Charlene Kaforey, who recently experienced good results for her mesothelioma with an alternative cancer vaccine program at the in the Bahamas, posted her story to the site. The blog is a project of Jonathan Chamberlain, who authored two books about alternative therapies after losing his wife, Bernadette, to cervical cancer in 1994.

The blog, called the Cancerfighter’s Weblog, explores “alternative cancer therapies and ideas,” touching on a wide range of topics that also includes general health and wellness through alternative, holistic or natural medicines and practices. He encourages people like Charlene, who are trying non-traditional therapies, to share their stories and experiences with others, and provides a forum for people to ask questions.

John has another web site, Fighting Cancer: A Survival Guide, where he shares some personal stories of his and Bernadette’s life, and addresses topics including how to deal with a diagnosis of cancer, advice for caregivers, stories of good and bad experiences with alternative treatments, and good and bad stories about orthodox treatments.

An English teacher living in Hong Kong, John has authored textbooks for secondary school students, and also has written a number of other books on topics including Chinese folk religion, a profile of a famous Chinese gambler, and a touching biography about the life of his daughter, Stevie, who had Down Syndrome.


Complementary, alternative medicine debate

28 May 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

In the ongoing quest for a cure for mesothelioma and other life-threatening illnesses, the debate over the validity and effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) continues to stir up strong emotions.

Complementary medicine is used along with standard medicine, while alternative medicine is used in place of standard treatments.

Complementary and alternative medicine may include dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.

Not long ago, I shared Charlene Kaforey’s good news, when she discovered her mesothelioma mass had diminished by half after completing a first round of cancer vaccines, considered an alternative treatment.

Recent news has included reports of research ranging from the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines in combination with chemotherapy, to the use of Chinese mushrooms in homeopathic treatment, to a study indicating traditional chemotherapy might enhance the effectiveness of cancer vaccines, which are currently in clinical trials.

The problem, according to complementary medicine (CM) professor Edzard Ernst, in an editorial published recently in BMJ Clinical Evidence, is that “one side of the debate argues that there is no scientific evidence that can support CM, while the other side believes scientific evidence cannot be applied to CM.”

The danger, he says, is that waiting for absolute evidence might prevent someone from trying a therapy that could be beneficial, but siding with the idea that CAM simply cannot be proven may lead a patient into treatment that could cause more harm than good.

The National Cancer Institute’s Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM), which coordinates the Institute’s research program in CAM, has established a goal of evaluating data from CAM practitioners with the same rigorous scientific methods employed in evaluating treatment responses with conventional medicine.

Major categories of CAM therapies, as determined by OCCAM, include alternative medical systems (built upon complete systems of theory and practice, like traditional Chinese medicine or homeopathy), energy and electromagnetic based therapies, exercise therapies (like yoga), manipulative and body-based methods, mind-body interventions (like hypnotherapy), nutritional therapeutics, pharmacological and biologic treatments (like vaccines), and spiritual therapies (healing, prayer).

OCCAM is developing the NCI Best Case Series (BCS) program based on its evaluations of CAM therapies, in which it provides an independent review of medical records and medical imaging from patients treated with unconventional cancer therapies.

But whether or not alternative and complementary medicine can be proven effective, people will still seek it out, says Professor Ernst. The “almost insatiable hunger of patients” for CM has driven its importance, he says, despite criticisms, praise or skepticism from the medical community, scientists or politicians, and in spite of the fact that more often than not health insurance does not cover the treatments.

Obviously, this topic – and its accompanying debate – needs much more examination. I will be exploring it more in the future. Do you have an experience with complementary or alternative medicine? Share it with us!


Living with Meso – Charlene’s story UPDATE

6 May 2008 by under People, Research/Treatment

nccam logo 01 150x62 Living with Meso   Charlenes story UPDATEToday I received a wonderful email from Charlene Kaforey. Some of you have followed along with her story about her own fight with mesothelioma, which was published here in March and April. For those that are unfamiliar, Charlene, who just turned 49, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2007.

With a stage III diagnosis, she underwent chemotherapy treatments from October to December of that year, and then, faced with the prospect of a pleurectomy or pneumonectomy, which would remove part or all of the affected lung, decided to try alternative medicine.

Charlene went to the in Freeport, Grand Bahamas, in January 2008, where she underwent an 8-week treatment called Immuno-Augmentation Therapy (IAT). Upon returning home, she administers her own vaccines several times a day, and has been continuing a twice-daily intravenous vitamin C program with the help of a nurse friend.

She celebrated her birthday Sunday, then on Monday went for her first CT scan since beginning her alternative treatment. Charlene reports, “There was overall improvement in my scan results!! The tumor was half of what it was previously, the pleural thickening was reduced, fluid is reduced and the pleural effusion is gone. I am thrilled, and stunned. Of course, I’m still guardedly optimistic, since I do still have cancer and the results could change at any time. But this, for now, this is the best birthday present I could have gotten!”

Alternative therapies like IAT are not authorized by the American Medical Association, and there is still a lot of skepticism and caution surrounding them. Generally, medical insurance does not cover alternative medical treatments like IAT.

Treatments that are not considered conventional medicine, but that are undertaken along with traditional medical therapies, like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, are called complementary. Treatments used in place of conventional medicine, like the IAT Charlene is undergoing, are called alternative medicine.

IAT, along with other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) programs, are being studied by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services.

Patients considering complementary or alternative treatments are encouraged to thoroughly research possible risks, benefits, and scientific evidence, and to discuss alternatives with their physician.

For more information, visit the NCCAM online, in the “health” section under “be an informed consumer.” They have information on topics including what to do when considering using CAM, how to select a CAM practitioner, and paying for CAM treatment.

I will be exploring CAMs in the coming weeks, and hope to talk to physicians and alternative and complementary treatment doctors and specialists about these programs, as well as patients like Charlene who are using them. If you’ve had an experience with a CAM, leave a comment or email me and share your experience.

I am thrilled for Charlene! Happy Birthday!!