Risky to choose complementary over chemo?


Question from Bob T: My mom has breast cancer, but says she doesn't want to 'poison' her body with chemotherapy. After her surgery she's going to do visualization and meditation instead. Is she putting her health at risk?
Answers - Marisa Weiss, M.D. Every woman's situation is unique. The value of chemotherapy depends very much on her risk of recurrence. The higher her risk of recurrence, the greater the potential benefit from chemotherapy. If her doctor has recommended chemotherapy because she has a significant risk of recurrence, then it may not be advisable to give up on chemotherapy and instead seek out only complementary medicine. If her risk of recurrence is relatively low, your mother may not want to take chemotherapy just to lower her risk by a few percentage points.

Also, your mother doesn't necessarily have to make a choice between one type of treatment and another. Perhaps she may decide to use both chemotherapy and complementary medicine to her advantage. It may be useful for her to seek several opinions from medical oncologists—the kind of doctor that prescribes chemotherapy. This may help her fully understand these issues so she can feel comfortable with her decision.
Dan Benor A counselor, a support group, or both might also be helpful in weighing all the options. Sometimes we feel that we're making a good decision but we haven't considered all the possibilities. So it's important not to rush. It's important also to realize that what feels right at a certain point may bear re-evaluation in the light of further knowledge.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. What's fascinating about being a person is that we really can change over time, and that our needs can evolve as well. Dr. Benor's suggestion that you start talking to yourself is very helpful; it can be a good way to keep in touch with how you are growing as a person as you move through your life.

On Wednesday, October 16, 2002, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Complementary and Holistic Treatments. Daniel Benor, M.D., Patricia Johnson, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about what complementary and holistic treatments are, how to find reliable practitioners, and which might be the best treatments for you.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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