Refusing Conventional Treatment
This is a fascinating commentary from The Oncologist about a study looking at women who refuse conventional care (chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy) treatment and, instead, proceed with a range of alternative therapies. Fortunately, most of them did agree to surgery. Through the years, I have known a handful of women who made this choice. Most of them I saw once or twice, around the time of their diagnosis when they were struggling with this decision, and then never saw again. A few I saw at the beginning and then, sadly, some time later when they returned with metastatic disease. Before you think it, I will say it: Of course, receiving standard treatment is not a guarantee that the cancer will not return. However, it most certainly improves the odds.
Clearly, women who make this choice carry a very strong set of beliefs and values. They strongly believe that western medicine is dangerous and are certain they are doing the best thing for themselves and their health. I have no idea how common (hopefully, not very) this situation is. I expect that the majority of women who feel this way never make it to my office and, probably, many of them never make it to an oncologist's office either.
Here is the beginning and then a link (scroll down for the abstract):
Beliefs and Perceptions of Women with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Who Refused Conventional Treatment in Favor of Alternative Therapies
by Dennis L. Citrin et al.
BARRIE R. CASSILETH
This interesting article describes the, fortunately, rare decision among breast cancer patients to forego evidence-based main- stream care, at least initially, in favor of "alternatives." As is clear to readers of this journal, there are no viable "alterna- tives" to nationally developed standards for breast cancer treat- ment. What defines the women and their rationale for declining mainstream care? That is the topic studied by Citrin et al.
The research included 30 breast cancer patients who initially declined recommended treatment in favor of literal alternatives and who eventually sought the combination of appropriate treatment plus therapies termed "alternatives" as offered at the Midwestern Regional Medical Center (MRMC) in Zion, Illinois, a cancer treatment facility operated by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. These women were compared with 30 others who accepted the combination at MRMC following diagnosis. The comparison group was selected to mir- ror the racial mix and educational level of the decliners.
No sociodemographic differences were found between the two groups, but they differed significantly in their perceptions of the risks and benefits of chemotherapy and radiation therapy versus "alternative" therapies. Women who initially declined mainstream treatment and sought alternative therapies exclusively perceived mainstream treatments as risky or harmful and alternatives as beneficial.
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