Complementary vs. Alternative

Complementary and alternative methods are those not yet recognized as standard treatments for cancers and other illnesses. Sometimes these methods are palliative, meaning they are only meant to treat symptoms and not developed as an attempt to cure a disease or illness. Complementary and alternative treatments as they pertain to cancer treatments include numerous methods across various cultures. Understanding how these methods compare to others makes for a more complete understanding of treatment options overall.

Categorization of Treatments

Cancer treatments are categorized according to how far they have been developed in research, clinical trials, and common practice. Proven treatments are those that have undergone rigorous research, been deemed successful in clinical trials, and are found to be safe and useful. Treatments in this category are, for the most part, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These treatments are evidence based because they have been proven through scientific method with results being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Proven treatments are those currently in practice and commonly referred to as mainstream medicine.

Other treatments not yet deemed mainstream are sometimes referred to as research and investigational treatments. These are the methods currently being tested in clinical trials. Volunteers comprise the majority of clinical trials in an effort to not only cure their illness or treat their symptoms, but in an attempt to assist doctors in developing cures and treatments that can be used in later cases. Generally, before being tested on humans, these types or studies are performed in a lab setting or with the use of animals. The tests with promising results are then incorporated into human trials. From there, any positive findings go on to be approved by various government agencies and sanctioned for regular use. It is only from this point on that a treatment is considered a standard one.

Complementary vs. Alternative Treatments

The intent for certain treatments is not that they will eventually become standard medicine, but that they will work in tandem with other methods. These are known as complementary treatments. Most often these are the methods that aid in palliative care. Complementary treatments can assist in symptom relief, as well as helping a patient achieve a better quality of life. Alternative methods are those believed to replace standard medicine, often when curative efforts are no longer a viable option. Alternative methods may also depend on external factors such as culture. Both of these categories can include methods not currently developed in clinical studies and cover a broad range of methodology. When using treatments outside of standard medicine it is important to consider possible side effects and recognize all possible outcomes of a treatment not yet approved by the FDA and other government regulations. Oftentimes, a treatment that has been approved as standard has undergone rigorous testing for a long period of time. Alternative and complementary methods may not follow the same scientific guidelines.

DIscuss Treatment Options with a Doctor

Those diagnosed with diseases, such as mesothelioma, like other cancer patients may be looking for a treatment that fits with their lifestyle or culture. They may also be looking into various methods for symptom relief. This is especially true of those diagnosed with mesothelioma as this type of cancer exhibits a long latency period, with diagnosis not normally occurring until the later stages. Factors that influence treatment options, including diagnosisprognosis, and staging should only be determined by a licensed physician or specialist.

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