Alternative Therapies for Treatment

Last Modified: April 23, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Just recently my wife's brother, who is severely handicap and 48yrs old was diagnosed to have a Mass in his Colon. Where we can get help as far as non-Chemotherapeutic and more natural products to combat this if it turns out to be Cancer? I also wanted to know if there are certain drugs that promote the growth of the mass.


Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Medical Oncology Educational Content Specialist, responds:

I would first like to say that it is important to find out if this mass is cancer, what stage of cancer, and if it has spread before deciding on what type of treatment to pursue. Mainstream cancer treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery can be unpleasant. But they have been scientifically tested and proven to work for treating cancer. Even though the side effects of mainstream cancer treatment can be serious, the treatments are helping to fight a life-threatening disease. Cancer patients who choose alternative medicine instead of mainstream cancer treatments may be putting themselves at serious risk. Delays or interruptions in standard treatment pose a dangerous risk to cancer patients because they can give the cancer more time to grow. Even when cancer has reached a stage where cure is not possible, it is important to remember that mainstream care can offer a lot in the way of comfort. In the case of your brother-in-law being severely handicapped, the cancer doctor may be able to make adjustments to his treatment regimen to lessen side effects and decrease the burden of treatment on him given his other health problems, but still treat his cancer effectively. Not treating cancer or not treating cancer effectively can lead to even more complications and sickness.

Most natural methods of treatment have not been fully investigated scientifically and have not been proven to be safe or effective in treating cancer. It is imperative before taking any alternative cancer treatments to make sure the treatment is safe and effective. You must inform yourself from reliable scientific sources about the risks and benefits of each therapy. You want to make sure the information you find in literature and websites is coming from a reputable source and discuss this information with your doctor.

The following are two very good and trustworthy sources that can provide you with information on alternative cancer treatments: The American Cancer Society ( has a great deal of information about this topic and about some reputable centers conducting research in the area of complementary and alternative medications for cancer treatment. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is part to the National Institutes of Health also provides good information and the latest research on alternative medications.

There are so many herbal and natural therapies available that I cannot tell you exactly which ones to avoid, but I will tell you that nothing has been truly proven to decrease cancer when a tumor is present. Many natural therapies are lacking in research and thus we don’t know what side effects they will have in terms of promoting growth. In addition, many herbal and natural medications can have an interaction with other prescription medications causing the prescription medications to not work correctly or other more serious side effects.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Colorectal cancer Webchat. View the entire transcript here.