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Talk:Alternative cancer treatments

Distiguishing between cancer-directed and symptom-directed therapiesEdit

As written, this page does not do a great job of distinguishing between these two aspects of cancer treatment: 1) treatments intended to have a cancer cell killing effect; and 2) treatments intended to decrease or diminish the signs and symptoms that can manifest as a result of cancer. These concepts are obviously intertwined, as killing cancer cells will often have a direct effect on signs and symptoms (e.g., shrinking a tumor that was impinging on a nerve can improve the nerve pain). My opinion is that this distinction should be made right at the top of the page, and the theme should be continued throughout. Some alternative cancer treatments are not-so-alternative at dealing with symptoms, but if they are being used in the belief that they will kill cancer cells, they become alternative. Jeremy Warner (talk) 18:05, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

No. It's when they simply don't work that they become altmed. -Roxy, the dog. Esq. wooF 23:02, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Do you have a source for that definition? I would argue that the current definition of "not approved by the government" is incorrect. The definition on is "Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard medical care." Theyellowdart22 (talk) 12:21, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

The problem with the term ineffectiveEdit

I wanted to say I appreciate the efforts made to improve upon this page. However I wanted to say the problem with the term ineffective is that it makes absolute claims when clearly many of the phytochemicals in several of the herbs have shown some benefit when used in combination with standard-of-care therapies with in-vivo case studies, some showing improvement of survival time, some showing symptom relief and anti-inflammatory properties. What should be elucidated further within this article is that some of these have been shown within laboratories to kill cancer cells. For example, cannabinoids may act to aid in fighting cancer in multiple ways, such as acting on g-protein coupled receptors, helping to activate GAPs that may help to dephosphorylate RAS (if the RAS protein isn't "locked") as well as aiding in its activities upon p8 and that within the cell it helps to produce an anticancer lipid ceramide which helps promote apoptosis. Another herb listed here is milk thistle, but it is known in literature to be at the very least somewhat effective through its chemical silymarin, which may help fight inflammation in the liver, pancreas and bile duct, and also may help induce apoptosis of cancer cells. Also, turmeric/curcumin has been shown in studies to help fight pancreatic and liver cancers. Karela (bitter melon) has been shown by Colorado University to help fight pancreatic cancer as well as diabetes by helping lower blood sugar levels and also activating AMP-activating proteins inducing apoptosis in pancreatic cancers. Certain flowers, such as wild bergamot, may be effective at lowering inflammation and helping to fight cancers. Certain chemicals, such as eugenol from cloves, have been shown to be effective at helping to regulate cell production and may help with leukemic disorders. Pomegranates contain a natural mTOR inhibitor. To say plants are "ineffective" is a slap in the face to scientists who have spent so much time researching. Truly, what must be done is further research, education and elucidation to isolate chemicals and study their effective dosages rather than to say it is entirely ineffective. But I see this page has greatly improved since I last visited, with a much less dismal viewpoint pushed upon the reader. I do agree however that it must be greatly recommended for all the readers of this article, especially those with cancer, to not bypass standard treatment, and this should be the goal of the article is to help educate those with cancer that it isn't wise to deviate too far off the path from standard of care, but rather promote the use of both standard of care and complementary-alternative medicine together, hand in hand, as much research has shown that combination of the two sometimes greatly improves survival, lowers symptoms, and may lower the risks with chemosickness, but should be reviewed with their healthcare professionals, oncologists and nutritionists before starting supplementation to assure there aren't adverse side effects. Thanks to the editors for opening their minds and being more scientific. We as scientists, myself included (speaking as a biologist), must research further. I don't want to be labeled a quack for making broad claims, but I do believe that sometimes herbs can and may help in the fight. Cancer is a horrible disease and we are just now starting to unravel how some of the pathways work, such as MAPK, PI3K, akt, mTOR and others. We are finding more and more effective means of battling cancers, through gene therapies, immunotherapies, virotherapies, anticancer proteins, anticancer lipids, inhibitors of faulty proteins (such as novel small molecule kras g12c inhibitors), PARP inhibitors, FAK inhibitors, nanobots as a vehicle of delivery for targeted therapies, and so on. So I implore those readers out there who question modern medicine to not quit standard of care just because some of these herbs may help, because within the next decade the standard of care will greatly improve, and targeted therapies are becoming more mainstream with less systemic toxicities to healthy cells. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2602:306:C4EA:14D0:1836:3A76:5EC6:D64A (talk) 06:35, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

The biggest problem with WikipediaEdit

The fact of the matter is that the biggest problem with Wikipedia is that much of the time, many articles are written by non-experts in the field. Not to incite any hostilities, but many of the articles written on Wikipedia are done so by non-experts in the field, with no real background in the topic they are covering. When someone with a background in the field makes a correction, it gets deleted, and an edit war ensues. Many of the non-experts have all kinds of awards that they wear like a badge on their talk pages, while the rest of us are actually in college studying the very things the so-called arm-chair "scientists" tell us we are wrong about. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. And this fact scares me because Wikipedia is a popular go-to source for information. Much of the time bureaucracy and rules laid forth by the wiki-editors inhibit consensus, and dialogue is impeded. I truly wish that all of the articles dealing with biology could be dealt with by people who actually have a background in biology and chemistry. Most biologists would laugh at the notion that CRUK calls for the punishment of people who promote "superfoods" such as broccoli (literally! UK from what I have read actually punish people for using the word "superfood" in advertising!), when in fact, some of the chemicals in broccoli such as 3,3′-Diindolylmethane are now being isolated and investigated for its strong anticancer properties by the National Cancer Institute. So why are the so called experts policing words now? And why do the armchair "scientists" take what CRUK says as gospel truth? Seems to me like CRUK is about 60 years behind the USA in oncology. So how can they be cited as a reliable source of biological information? I'd far rather trust NCI than CRUK. But the author of this article seems to cite CRUK more often than any other source; I assume the author is from the UK. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2602:306:C4EA:14D0:C5C3:9B8C:5B41:AFEC (talk) 04:09, 26 November 2015 (UTC)

If an expert in the field makes a statement backed up by a quality reference citation, how can a legitimate edit war ensue? The first reversion (deletion) qualifies as vandalism by any standard of WP. Right?--Quisqualis (talk) 01:46, 9 November 2016 (UTC)

Excess mortalityEdit

This paper:

Johnson, Skyler B.; Park, Henry S.; Gross, Cary P.; Yu, James B. (2018-10-01). "Complementary Medicine, Refusal of Conventional Cancer Therapy, and Survival Among Patients With Curable Cancers". JAMA oncology. 4 (10): 1375–1381. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.2487. ISSN 2374-2445. PMC 6233773. PMID 30027204.CS1 maint: PMC format (link)

has some updated information on the risk of dying. They conclude that the biggest cause of excess mortality among people who use alternative cancer treatments is due to refusing or delaying conventional treatment.

This is a recent primary source, and while it's a large study in a reputable journal, I think it would be best to make a mental note about this work, and check back later to see whether it's been cited in other papers, and see how they evaluate it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:24, 27 January 2019 (UTC)

General UpdatesEdit

Hello Internet Citizens,

I am currently working to improve this page. Wikiproject Medicine has rated this as a start-class with mid-importance. Wikiproject Skepticism has it as a C-class and high-importance. I am happy to hear any of your ideas for how this page might be improved.

A few observations and questions about the page as it stands:

- There seems to be several over-generalizations. For example, one ~30 patient breast cancer survey is generalized to all cancer patients seeking alternative therapy in the “People who choose alternative treatments” section.

- The areas of research section is confusing. I don’t know what is meant by “specific methods”, nor do I understand why proton therapy is listed. It is an established treatment recommended by oncologists every day.

- What is the purpose of the “People who choose alternative treatments section”? I see that it strings together some generalizations of people who use alternative therapies, but I don’t understand why that’s useful information.

- Examples of complementary therapy could be expanded to include summaries of cited articles to give a little more- detail.

I welcome a conversation! Please feel free to leave comments and start a discussion.

Theyellowdart22 (talk) 02:44, 1 November 2019 (UTC)

It appears that the controversial way that proton therapy is used isn't supported by good evidence. Hope that helps. Have you read the welcome message on your talk page? The links it contains are useful. -Roxy, the dog. wooF 11:48, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
Roxy, the dog., two questions. Number one, can you please explain what you mean by "controversial way" that proton therapy is used? There is very good data for proton therapy, in many cases. The question is not "does proton therapy work?" but "is it better than photon therapy?" Also, can you please explain why you deleted all my edits? You said that it would be "easier" just to take out the "nonsense." I'm happy to edit, but I am also looking to expand on the page, not just trim it down. Obviously it has a lot of room to grow if it is only a start, wouldn't you agree? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Theyellowdart22 (talkcontribs) 23:35, 5 November 2019 (UTC)
User:Theyellowdart22 In my opinion some of what you added belongs on the article about the practice not here such as "An ancient form of healing with origins in Chinese traditional medicine. It involves placing needles in specific parts of the body to elicit certain effects." and "Acupuncture is a diverse field with many subtypes; each practitioner may use different treatment theories.[43] Practitioners performing acupuncture should be familiar with the patient's disease and potential complications of the procedures. It is recommended that practitioners are licensed professionals"
With respect to cancer pain we have a newer Cochrane review which I have added. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 01:17, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
With respect to this source
It says no peer reviewed articles published on the topic. No need to use primary sources per WP:MEDRS. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 01:19, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
Doc James, thanks for your input! A couple questions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that I posted many primary research articles, especially in the acupuncture area. All the references in that section were to government websites and review articles. I included a few in aromatherapy which could be removed.
In addition, I stated in my addition that no clinical trial looking at cancer treatment had been published, which is exactly what your reference states. I also stated that some trials, looking at symptom relief, have been published, which is true. Just trying to figure out exactly to what you are referring. Thank you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Theyellowdart22 (talkcontribs) 03:59, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
This source is not strong enough to support the conclusions so trimmed.[1] Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 07:09, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

"The effects of aromatherapy are unclear" and this "Clinical trials involving aromatherapy for symptomatic treatment in cancer patients shown mixed results." mean the exact same thing. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 07:10, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

With respect to hot flashes this is a better source than

Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 07:24, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

This source is not pubmed indexed.
And has an impact factor of less than 1.[2]
Not really suitable for the claim it is used for. So trimmed Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 07:27, 6 November 2019 (UTC)


I do not think this is a fair summary of "Other symptoms, including dry mouth, procedure-related pain, and sleep problems, have been shown to have some benefit from aromatherapy, although the studies are very small."

source says

"Studies of aromatherapy have shown mixed results. There have been some reports of improved mood, anxiety, sleep, nausea, and pain. Other studies reported that aromatherapy showed no change in symptoms."

This is summarized as "The effects of aromatherapy are unclear". Expecially with there being no peer reviewed RCTs on the topic.

Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 07:39, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

It was originally intended as a summary of several sources before many of them were deleted.Theyellowdart22 (talk) 18:47, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
Again, part of the confusion in wording comes from the fact that no RCTs have been done in cancer treatment, but they have been conducted in the world of symptom management, which is what this sub-section is about. No one is claiming that RCTs have been done in aromatherapy for its cancer-fighting properties. Theyellowdart22 (talk) 02:15, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
User:Doc James thanks again for taking the time to go through all this! Any ideas for how the page can otherwise be improved? Theyellowdart22 (talk) 02:21, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
First identify a problem. One issue I see is some old sources (like cancer survival rates cited to a source from 2010). Alexbrn (talk) 05:58, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
I identified several problems, including overgeneralization and poor readability of the first section. But your edits suggest you disagree. Which data in particular do you feel is worth keeping in this section? And what is your basis for keeping the first sentence? Whose definition is that? My definition referenced a reputable source. In addition, your "reference" you pointed out is automatically updated. The site was created in 2010, but you can clearly see that data exists past that. Theyellowdart22 (talk) 18:24, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
We should not reference dynamic content. The way this works is you need to get consensus for changes you want. Your edit lost too much information in my view. Alexbrn (talk) 18:44, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
Can you provide me with a link to Wiki rules saying not to use dynamic content? Still learning about the editing world. Which parts need to remain, specifically? I can retry to edit for clarity but I'd like to know what you think is important to keep. Theyellowdart22 (talk) 18:56, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
There is no specific rule, but dynamic content will fall afoul of WP:V policy. I don't see any particularly pressing problems with the lede as-is. Alexbrn (talk) 19:16, 7 November 2019 (UTC)
How does it violate it/fall afoul?Theyellowdart22 (talk) 00:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Because our text can can deviate from what the source says. Alexbrn (talk) 03:41, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Ok. Which sources from the curcumin section did you feel were unreliable? I tried to make sure that they were all review articles from decent journals or brand-name websites (MSK, Mayo). Theyellowdart22 (talk) 21:53, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

Roxy, the dog. Can you please explain why Ref 15 is acceptable? It seems to violate the Wikipedia:MEDRS claim that primary sources should not be used, which has been discussed on this talk page. Thank you.Theyellowdart22 (talk) 21:25, 7 November 2019 (UTC)

Alexbrn You commented in your editsum "This is an article about alternative cancer treatment, not side-effect treatment." If that is true, then why include anything about complementary therapies? I think if you draw the line to say that we're not going to talk about side effects, you have to eliminate all mention of complementary therapies that deal with symptoms, which is most of the "Examples of complementary therapy" section. The "Pain Relief" section should also be deleted. Is that what you think we should do? Theyellowdart22 (talk) 17:18, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

Quite possibly, as the scope of the article is explicitly set in the first para as "alternative or complementary treatments for cancer". It goes on to say such treatments are not supported by evidence. For treatments of side-effects which are supported by evidence, another article would seem appropriate, and indeed this is already covered in Medical cannabis. Alexbrn (talk) 17:27, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Are you saying that there is no evidence for any alternative or complementary treatments? See top of talk page for discussion of definition. I don't know where that comes from. Just because something isn't part of the standard of care does not mean there is no evidence. Theyellowdart22 (talk) 12:27, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Alternative medicine is, by definition, not medicine. If is was well-evidenced it would be. Alexbrn (talk) 12:33, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
You said "Just because something isn't part of the standard of care does not mean there is no evidence." Any evidence must meet WP:MEDRS. But you knew that. -Roxy, the dog. Esq. wooF 14:17, 11 November 2019 (UTC)



The lead section gives a very good, but detailed, overview of the concept of alternative cancer treatments. As someone who has a medical background, this section was readable and understandable to me. However, it uses quite a bit of medical jargon and is at a post-graduate reading level. I wonder if you can work on this section and make it a bit more readable to the general audience. Overall, I think this section sets up the article well and really helps define what is meant by "alternative cancer treatments."

--> Thanks. Have retooled some of the lead section and readability is now at grade 14 per Hemingway app. Could be improved still, but I think it's at a good point. I still have one piece of primary literature in the lead, which may need to be removed at some point.

I think the layout of your page is really great! I like how you start with a terminology section and then get into the details. I wonder if you could add a section on examples of alternative therapy? Or maybe incorporate this into the unproven and disproven treatment sections?

--> This is pretty well addressed in the "Untested and disproved cancer treatments page, which is linked in the lead." I don't know how much to duplicate.

One thing we talked about in the intro sessions was to minimize the use of primary literature and direct quotations in the Wikipedia articles. Both the prevalence and people who choose alternative treatments contain quite a bit of data and direct quotations from specific studies. I am not sure how much of this you added or what was already there before you started.

--> most of it was there before I started. It's somewhat difficult to find reliable review articles, so sometimes this is the only data we have. I can try to pare some of these down.

For an inherently biased topic, I think you did a really good job of keeping a neutral tone. You presented facts, and did not make any opinionated comments about alternative cancer treatments or people who choose them. In terms of balance, it seemed as if complementary therapies were talked about in almost equal amount as alternative therapies. I was a bit confused about this -- are complementary therapies a subset of alternative therapies, or are they entirely separate?

--> In most of the literature, they are spoken of in one breath: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). However, this page is only labeled "Alternative cancer treatments." This is another question mark in my mind; do we change the title to include complementary therapies or create a new page for them?

This page is very well cited. One think about the sources that I mentioned previously is that there seem to be quite a bit of primary studies cited rather than reviews.

--> Got it. Will work on it.

Overall, well organized and the article flows well. I think if you wanted to, you could add a section for "examples of alternative cancer therapies" after terminology. The alternative theories of cancer sections is a bulleted list - I wonder if you could instead of making each theory a different bullet point, make it a different subheading? Just a thought!

--> Done. Thank you.

I don't think this is very applicable to your article. I don't know if you can find an image about the alternative theories of cancer? If not, I think that is also okay!

--> I'm not sure where I would start, or stop. It would be several random images. But if someone thinks that this page would benefit from pictures, I'm happy to look.

Overall I think you did a really good job with this page, despite it being a complicated page to edit. You added some really great information and good sources! I am very impressed by how you were able to keep the page very neutral. Great job!

--> Thank you!

KateF87 (talk) 15:14, 15 November 2019 (UTC)

-->Theyellowdart22 (talk) 20:48, 19 November 2019 (UTC)
Return to "Alternative cancer treatments" page.