A cancer diagnosis in an Internet era brings many positive elements: online support, medical information at your fingertips and new ways to connect with others who share your diagnosis. Sorting through mountains of information can be overwhelming and some very determined criminals know that. When reviewing various treatment options it’s important to work with your medical team, and informed fellow patients, to avoid being ripped off or even putting your health in jeopardy by falling for a scam.
Miracle “cures” for cancer come in many forms – pills, herbs, powder, plants, home products, and more. They come in as advertisements, emails, even as pass throughs from friends and family who care about the patient and think they are helping.
Many of these scams have been around for decades and are well known to clinical professionals and more experienced patients. In the U.S. the national consumer protection agency, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), says it’s a good idea to talk to your oncologist about any products you’d like to try. In many cases, the product can have serious repercussions: it won’t treat the cancer; and it could even harm you. Asking questions is the best way to satisfy your curiosity and manage your treatment wisely.
Cancer treatment providers often use the terms complementary and alternative medicine. These terms can refer to legitimate helpful treatments, but they can also refer to risky products and treatment courses. Complementary therapies are meant to enhance standard medical treatment like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Your treatment team can tell you whether there’s any proof that a complementary therapy may help reduce your discomfort or other symptoms.
Alternative therapies are meant to replace conventional cancer treatment. Reputable medical and cancer experts generally do not recommend alternative products and practices because there’s no proof that they are effective treatments for cancer. Many can even be harmful. Remember that stopping or delaying conventional treatment may have serious consequences.
Products claiming to treat or cure cancer have been around since the old-fashioned snake oil days.