What is CAM/Complementary and Alternative Medicine and how is it different from Integrative Medicine? AKA why you should always talk to everyone in your health care team!
CAM is a term that has evolved over time, initially called alternative medicine, with rather negative associations for traditional oncologists and primary care physicians. The common fear was that patients pursuing these treatments would use them as their only therapy, delaying the conventional treatments until their cancer had spread and was no longer curable. We now realize that only 8% of patients fall into this group, while two-thirds of cancer patients use both CAM therapies and “Western” treatments.
One patient classified these as “those therapies which I have had to pay for out-of –pocket and never felt comfortable discussing with my physicians”. Patients often fear that their providers won’t accept their efforts outside of standard treatments and want to be “good patients”, so simply don’t mention them. Unfortunately this means that 68% of the physician working with cancer patients don’t have the full picture of what is going on. And there are some significant risks:
- Drug/nutrient interactions
12-45% of patients can have significant drug/nutrient interactions from mixing over the counter supplements with prescriptions.
- Physical risk
The supplement and CAM world has grown to include practices like “colonic therapy” which involve the risk of bowel perforation, delayed diagnoses, disrupted bowel flora, contaminated equipment and infection, excess water absorption and electrolyte imbalances. Supplements long ago proven not only worthless but harmful, such as laetrile, which is sold as “Vitamin” B 17 on the internet from sources outside of the US.
- Consider “financial toxicity”
Beware of sites selling you herbal and vitamin products, unless you have verified the worth and safety of that product. Patients with cancer are vulnerable to any promised hope, so be sure to keep your brain engaged when evaluating any new idea. Or as Grouch Marx (and many others) have phrased this:Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.
Integrative Medicine means always communicating with your physicians and other members of your team. While this is your choice, I always recommend you sign the HIPPA documents that will allow legal sharing of the information gathered in our sessions.
Nutrition is considered a complementary therapy, one that adds to your primary, medical interventions.
Remember: input from all of your providers is a bonus!
Nutrition Science is constantly growing and while the information provided here is intended to be accurate and current, there is no guarantee of accuracy extended or implied. The information offered is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
You should always establish care with a primary care provider as well as your oncology specialists and consult with them before making any diagnostic, treatment or other healthcare related decisions. Always keep your provider informed of any changes you are considering. This allows opportunities for education for both of you, and the identification of any conflicts with other treatment needs you might have.