Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: An Environmental Scan

Table of Contents

3.14 Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Beyond allopathic or conventional treatments for cancer, both complementary and/or alternative therapies (CAM’s) are approaches used by cancer patients to seek during the course of their disease. Complementary therapies (CT) are various therapies used in conjunction with standard allopathic care. Conversely, alternative therapies (AT’s) are less embraced in Western medicine and are either used in place of conventional treatment, such as when a patient opts out of conventional therapies all together and substitutes AT’s in place of conventional medicine, while others turn to AT’s when allopathic medicine cannot provide any more treatment options.

There is a great deal of information available regarding CAM’s; however, within the medical community consensus surrounding the true effectiveness and the robust nature of the methodology used in examining CAM’s is still under debate. In 1998, The Office of Cancer Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) within the National Cancer Institute was formed with the primary objective of providing clinicians and the public with up-to-date information surrounding the research, standardized reporting of the use of CAM’s along with information regarding access to such treatment alternatives and adverse events of numerous CAM therapies (Assouline and Miller 2006).

Estimates suggest that between 22% up to as many as 69% of individuals with cancer use complementary therapies for symptom relief from the toxicity of conventional treatment (Assouline and Miller 2006).  Among the most common reasons individuals turn to complementary therapies are for cancer-associated pain, anxiety and stress, fatigue along with nausea and vomiting. Specific complementary therapies include: acupuncture, massage, cognitive therapy and art therapy. Alternative therapies such as nutritionally based recommendations, supplements, high-dose vitamin C therapy are alternatives when assessing treatment options beyond conventional therapy approaches. For individuals with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it is important to note that any product that is labeled ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ may cause serious side effects either on its own or in combination with conventional treatment. Such effects can include liver toxicity and kidney damage among other adverse reactions, especially in combination with chemotherapy treatments.

Despite conflicting results, there is merit in considering certain complementary and alternative therapy options and many individuals with cancer report significant symptom relief and in some cases, the remission or complete disappearance of their disease; however, one must investigate carefully when considering either a complementary or alternative therapy. Ideally, having an individual’s health care team work together in order to identify and manage any effects is paramount.