Alternative breast cancer therapies and survival

Alternative breast cancer therapies and survival – Tips from Other Journals

Interest in alternative therapies for cancer has been growing for many years despite the lack of scientific evidence of benefit. Most of these therapies are based on active patient efforts and include “detoxification” diets, counseling and other activities designed to enhance quality of life and help the patient develop a positive attitude toward fighting cancer.

The Bristol Cancer Help Centre (BCHC), an English institution offering alternative therapies for cancer, invited a team of physicians and scientists to evaluate the results of their treatment program, in the belief that this assessment would validate their impression of success in extending patient survival and improving quality of life. BCHC treatment emphasizes a stringent diet of raw and partly cooked vegetables and soya, along with counseling and support.

Bagenal and colleagues compared patients attending BCHC with control subjects drawn from a specialist cancer center and two general hospitals in another region of England. The BCHC patients included in the study were all under 70 years of age and had a single invasive primary breast cancer. Patients and control subjects were similar with regard to previous history of oophorectomy, but differed slightly with regard to hysterectomy, with 10 percent of BCHC patients and 15 percent of control subjects having undergone the procedure. BCHC patients tended to be younger than the controls, and a higher percentage were premenopausal (65 percent versus 54 percent). Clinical staging was comparable in the two groups, although the BCHC patients underwent more extensive surgical treatment of the primary lesion than the control subjects. Forty-three percent of the BCHC patients had undergone a mastectomy, compared with 36 percent of the controls.

By June 1988, 334 of the BCHC patients and 461 of the control subjects had been followed for approximately two years. The rate of relapse was significantly higher in the BCHC patients than in the controls. When relapse occurred, survival was significantly shorter in BCHC patients than in control subjects. Total survival and disease-free survival did not differ significantly between controls from the specialist cancer hospital and controls from the general hospitals.

The women attending the BCHC actually had a significantly poorer outcome than the control subjects. Although studies addressing the effect of alternative therapies on quality of life have not yet been reported, the authors caution physicians to critically assess these forms of therapy for breast cancer. (Lancet, September 8, 1990, vol. 336, p. 606.)

COPYRIGHT 1991 American Academy of Family Physicians

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group