Cancer Council urges caution on alternative therapies

Thursday 23 April, 2015

Cancer Council Victoria is urging cancer patients to consult their treating doctor before trying alternative or complementary treatments, including extreme diets.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said research showed the use of complementary or alternative therapies was common among Australian cancer patients

"Some complementary therapies, like yoga and massage, are safe for cancer patients and may have benefits. However, there have been several high-profile examples of unscrupulous providers charging vulnerable people large sums of money for unproven and even dangerous treatments. That’s why we always encourage people to speak to their treating doctor before starting any new treatment,” Mr Harper said.

The same goes for so-called “wonder” diets or foods.

“Cancer patients often want to know what they should eat. Unfortunately, there’s no wonder food or eating plan. The answer is good nutrition. Eating a well-balanced diet that’s high in whole foods is important for everyone, but especially for those who have cancer.

“Our advice is: be wary of anyone who encourages you to eliminate many types of food or whole food groups from your diet. Always seek information from reputable sources and consult your doctor or dietitian first,” Mr Harper said.

Useful questions to ask about alternative and complementary therapies include:

  • Is this therapy specifically used for cancer patients or for people with other diseases?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Who will be involved in delivering the therapy, and what are their qualifications?
  • What are the costs, and are they covered by my health insurance provider?
  • What does the therapy aim to achieve?
  • Will this therapy affect my conventional medical treatment?
To speak to a cancer nurse for free information and support call 13 11 20.
Updated: 23 Apr, 2015