A recent study of patients with incurable brain tumours revealed that they often turn to natural therapies in an effort to improve their condition or alleviate their symptoms. The study was not conducted in order to prove or disprove the efficacy of these alternative treatments, but to help shed light on how doctors and other health professions should view these treatments and the patients who try them.
About the Study
Fearing that cancer sufferers may turn away from conventional treatments and use alternative treatments instead, many doctors discourage patients from trying them. This study, which included 621 individuals with incurable grade II to grade IV gliomas discovered that the patients did not turn to natural therapies because they were dissatisfied with conventional treatment or care and went on to suggest that doctors should encourage open discussion about these treatments with their patients. According to the Science Daily article that covered the study, some of the main reasons why patients turned to natural therapies included the following:
- To support conventional therapy
- To build up body resistance
- To do something for the treatment by myself
Around 40% of those who were included in the study used natural therapies in an attempt to take proactive measures in their treatment. Of these, 39% used homeopathy, 31% used vitamin supplements and 29% used various psychological methods.The author of the study, Oliver Heese, MD, a neurosurgeon at Germany's Hamburg-Eppendorf University Medical Centre felt that the "use of these alternative treatments may be largely overlooked and underestimated" and encouraged doctors to be more aware of patients' desire to try alternative therapies. He suggested that by encouraging open minded dialogue, they could be of assistance to their patients in a variety of ways and could help them avoid those therapies that could be dangerous or expensive and without value.
Interestingly, those who turned to alternative therapies and treatments were most likely to be younger patients, women and more educated people. Older patients, less educated people and men were less likely to try them. This contradicts the stereotype of those who turn to natural therapies as being naive and uneducated. The study, which was conducted by the German Glioma Network with support from German Cancer Aid, may open the door to an increase in awareness of the possible value of natural therapies to conventional medicine.