A major objection to alternative medicine is that it is done in place of conventional medical treatments. There is a natural role for teaching in this endeavor in the context of the integrative medicine curriculum, since the practice of culturally sensitive health care clearly requires an awareness of and respect for cultural traditions and practices, especially those related to health and healing.
While there is no cure for cancer, the NCCAM (National Center for complimentary and Alternative Medicine has conducted studies showing that acupuncture relieves the fatigue, nausea, and pain symptoms associated with both colon and breast cancer, as well as headaches and neck pain associated with surgery for brain tumors or throat cancer.
One study (Bleicher et al) comes from Fox Chase Cancer Center and examines the effect of time to surgery on breast cancer outcomes; the other (Chavez-MacGregor et al) is from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and examines the effect of time to chemotherapy on outcome.
You should not seek out complimentary and alternative medicine if you have an emergency health problem, or if you are overwhelmed by an ailment such as depression or anxiety – you should seek treatment for these at an emergency room or with a trained psychotherapist.
In the best cases, Offit says, alternative remedies are ineffective but relatively harmless, functioning as expensive placebos that may appear to relieve symptoms such as pain, largely because people expect them to. An example of this is homeopathy, in which key ingredients are diluted to the point of oblivion, making these remedies basically sugar pills, Offit says.