The poll measured people’s attitudes about cancer.
Frederick, Md (KM) There are some surprising results from this year’s National Cancer Opinion Survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “The survey revealed that nearly 40% of Americans believe that cancer can be cured just through the use of alternative therapies,” says Dr. Richard Shilsky, chief medical officer for the Society. “Things like diet, vitamins, minerals and oxygen therapy without the use of more conventional cancer treatments like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and now-a-days, immuno-therapy.”
“This is a concern that was expressed by even more than 20% of people who themselves have had cancer. And it was expressed even more commonly by younger people, people age 18 to 37, 47% of whom believe that alternative therapies can treat cancer, ” Dr. Shilsky continues.
He says many of these alternative treatments have not been studied comprehensively, and those that have are not very effective. “And there is research that shows that people who choose these therapies instead of conventional cancer treatment actually have a much higher risk of dying from cancer.”
One explanation for these opinions, he says, is that many people are concerned about the side affects of conventional cancer treatments, and have a mistrust of recommendations from medical professionals. “I think there’s also a lot of information that is available to the public from the providers of these alternative therapies, ” says Dr. Shilsky. “Lots of anecdotes, lots of advertising, much of which is not proven by evidence, but is readily available and is very persuasive.”
He says physicians and other medical professionals need to educate their patients to be skeptical about these claims.
But Dr. Shilsky says not all of these alternative therapies should be dismissed outright. “Acupuncture, for example, is known to be effective in relieving cancer pain and can be a good adjunct as an addition to standard treatment,” he says. “But as a stand alone approaching to treating cancers, these are not effective therapies, and should be pursued by people have cancer diagnosis.”
If you are undergoing conventional cancer treatment, and would like to try an alternative method, Dr.Shilsky says you should discuss that with your doctor. But if you are using a different therapy while undergoing cancer treatment, make sure to tell your physician. “Sometimes, they can negatively interfere with the treatment that we’re prescribing, and can make those treatments more toxic or less effective. And if we don’t have this information from the patient, than we can’t give them the appropriate advice,” he says.
The survey was conducted in the US between July 10th, 2018, and August 10th, 2018 among 4,038 adults 18 and older, including 152 people who have or had cancer. There was also an over sample of 849 adults so that there was a large enough samples to draw conclusions about the population of people with cancer, bringing the total number of adults with cancer who were surveyed to 1.001.
By Kevin McManus