Homeopathy and cancer
Homeopathy is an alternative approach to medicine based on the idea that if a large doses of a substance cause a symptom, when used in very small doses these can cure it.
Homeopathic remedies are water (and sometimes alcohol) based solutions containing small amounts of certain naturally occurring plants, minerals, animal products, or chemicals. The term "homeopathy" comes from the Greek words "homoios" (similar) and "pathos" (suffering).
Can homeopathy help cancer patients?
Although homeopathy is not part of conventional treatment for cancer it is often used to try to improve the quality of life of people with cancer as an additional treatment. It aims to help with a range of symptoms caused either by the disease itself or by the side effects caused by the conventional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Homeopathy has been used for many years for a wide range of illnesses, and the number of patients using it to relieve cancer symptoms has steadily increased in recent years. However, there is little clinical evidence that homeopathic remedies are effective in treating cancer symptoms or alleviating side effects of various cancer treatments.
Some practitioners claim homeopathy can help cancer patients by reducing pain, improving vitality and well being, stopping the spread of cancer, and strengthening the immune system. Some claim it can relieve certain side effects from radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, such as infections, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, hot flushes, hair loss, depression, and fatigue.
What is the evidence?
Few laboratory studies of homeopathic remedies have been published. Two such studies published in 2006 show the challenges in this field. The researchers found that homeopathic solutions had no effect on breast or prostate cancer cells growing in laboratory cultures.
One study on the increased use of complementary therapies by people with cancer showed that while certain complementary therapies had no actual anti-tumor effect, patients reported psychological improvement including increased hope and optimism. The complementary therapies studied included homeopathy.
What does the treatment involve?
On your first visit, the homeopath will ask you general questions regarding your health, medical history, lifestyle and diet. They might ask you about your mood, emotions and sleeping patterns. All the gathered information about you will help them to decide on the suitable remedy for you. Homeopathic remedies come in the form of tablets, granules, powder or liquid and can be taken by mouth or as creams or drops. Your therapist will explain you how to take your remedies and when to come back for the check up.
If you decide to use homeopathic treatment, it is important to let your specialist doctor know about your intention to do so. And your homeopath must be aware of your cancer ongoing treatments.
Side effects and risks
Homeopathic remedies are generally safe. Your symptoms may slightly worsen before they settle and improve. But this does not happen very often.
The main criticism of homeopathy is that a few misplaced individuals relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care, which may have serious health consequences.
It is a good idea to ask how much a homeopathy consultation will cost you before you book it and to get some idea of how much the remedies cost or whether the price is included in the consultation cost. Your first consultation can cost from £35 to £90. If the homeopath is medically trained it might be even more.
You can get free treatment in one of the UK NHS homeopathic hospitals but you will have to pay for the remedies. You will need a referral from your doctor to get the treatment in one of those hospitals.
The UK NHS homeopathic hospitals:
Bristol Homeopathic Hospital
Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 6JU
Phone: 01179 731231
Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital
1053 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 OXQ
Phone: 0141 211 1600
Liverpool Homeopathic Hospital
Department of Homeopathic Medicine, Mossley Hill Hospital, Park Avenue, Liverpool, L18 8BU
Phone: 0151 285 3707
The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine
60 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HR
Telephone 020 3448 2000
Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital
Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1JU
Phone: 01892 632801
To get more information about how to find a reliable qualified therapist is to contact one of the following organisations - British Homeopathic Association (tel: 0870 444 3950), Council of Organisations Registering Homeopaths (01444 239494) or The Royal London Homeopathic NHS Trust (0207 391 8864). These can supply you with a list of registered professionals and hospitals that practice homeopathy and give you advice how and where to get homeopathy treatment on NHS.