Many tumor patients use alternative therapies

Study: High popularity for alternative therapies in tumor patients

According to a current survey, almost half of the tumor patients use alternative forms of treatment in addition to conventional therapies.

According to a study by the German Glioma Network led by Dr. Oliver Heese, senior physician at the Clinic for Neurosurgery at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), around 40 percent of tumor patients can cope mentally better with their serious illness if they use alternative forms of treatment e.g. from naturopathy in addition to conventional medical therapies.

In the course of the study, a total of 621 patients with incurable grade II to IV tumor disease (glioblastoma tumors) were surveyed nationwide. In the survey, the patients were asked about their handling of alternative forms of treatment. The average age of the male and female sufferers was 41 years. 39 percent of the participants stated that they use homeopathic remedies. 31 percent said they took part in vitamin treatments (e.g. orthomolecular medicine). Another 29 percent use psychotherapeutic methods. A majority of those questioned stated that conventional medical therapy was supported by alternative healing methods in order to naturally strengthen the immune system. Most of the survey participants also stated that they did not fundamentally reject conventional medicine. Rather, the treatment approaches are viewed as a supplement.

Doctors were surprised by the results of the survey. "We were surprised by these results in patients receiving conventional medical treatment at a university clinic," said Dr. Heese. It shows that the treating doctors are particularly challenged when dealing with the patients. Physicians should see it as a task to actively hold discussions and to look for alternative treatment options together with the patient. Doctors should support patients in the choice of alternative healing methods. According to the senior physician, advice should be about educating patients about sensible but also unnecessary methods. Patients should be protected against costly but ineffective therapies, says Hesse.

Neurosurgery advises patients to definitely inform their doctor about the additional treatments so that they may not take anything that could harm them. "Patients must be able to speak openly to their doctor if they have questions about alternative healing methods," said Heese.

Every year around 10,000 people in Germany fall ill with a brain tumor. Especially in the case of incurable diseases, many people affected are looking for other forms of treatment. The results of the study have been published in the science magazine "Neurology". (sb, December 19, 2010)

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