Thinking smarter about complementary and alternative medicine

Submitted by Carlyn Zwarenstein on April 14, 2014 - 14:59

Coming on the heels of

(a)  The biggest study so far (not yet published; still in draft form) to show that homeopathy doesn’t work better than placebo; and

(b) Concern about the spread of measles in Canada, a resurgence apparently due to lack of sufficient vaccination to protect the population,

Our upcoming paper (stay tuned for it tomorrow) will be timely. It’s a literature review looking at how patients with cancer make decisions around the use of complementary and alternative treatments.

We know they (or we) are doing it. What we haven’t known is how, and when, and why. Tomorrow’s study aims to answer some of those questions.

The proportion of people with cancer who use some form of complementary or alternative therapy is huge, and the range of available complementary and alternative treatments and therapies is vast. The use of some is in fact supported by evidence, while others are pure snake oil. And the implications of selecting different ones (or choosing alternative treatments over conventional medical treatments) vary tremendously.

So why don’t most clinical settings provide adequate support to patients in making informed decisions about things they are going to make decisions about regardless?

Come back on Tuesday to find out how we might do a better job on that.

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