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Is It Safe to Try Alternative Breast Cancer Treatments?

Breast cancer costs our society tens of thousands of women’s lives every year. The costs in monetary terms are also steep for the few who survive. The cost of stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancer treatment begins at a minimum of N1,250,000. Stage 4 breast cancer which has an approximate 22% five-year survival rate and median survival of 3 years costs at least N5,000,000!

Breast cancer is an expensive disease that some prefer to forgo conventional treatment and resort to alternative medicine for survival. Many breast cancer patients lean towards alternative treatment such as herbal, homeopathy, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative therapy instead of pursuing evidence-based treatment with proven efficacy. Sadly, while these alternative medicines, practices, and procedures are popular and may be less expensive initially, they cannot cure cancer.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute made it clear that alternative medicine doesn’t cure cancer. A team of scientists from Yale University reviewed the National Cancer Database to identify patients who chose to forgo cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery in favor of alternative medicine.

They identified 280 patients diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer in 2004 who used alternative medicine (defined as “other-unproven: cancer treatments administered by non- medical personnel”)  and matched them with another 560 patients who received conventional treatment. The researchers then tracked the patient’s outcomes over time.

After five years, 78.3% of the patients who received conventional treatments were still alive compared to 54.7% of patients who opted for alternative medicine. A startling discovery shows that breast cancer patients who used alternative medicine are 5 times more likely to die.

It’s definitely tempting to think or say “What’s the harm? I have everything to gain and nothing to lose!” Well, you could just lose your life! Yes, the “harm” is death! Why? Mainly because opting for alternative medicine causes patients to shun away from effective and proven treatments that can save lives.

This is not to say though that all alternative methods are useless. Some alternative treatments may complement standard evidence- based treatment, but not replace it. Certain alternative treatments may help ease side effects of chemotherapy, relieve pain, and improve the quality of life of some breast cancer patients. It’s very important to understand that these are complementary remedies and shouldn’t be used in place of evidenced based treatment protocols.

Discuss your options with your doctor and together you can plan which alternative methods will complement your scientifically and medically approved treatment plan. 

Furthermore, be suspicious of any alternative breast cancer treatment that says it can cure breast cancer. It’s important to remember that those claims have not been proven. Here are a few things to seriously keep in mind:

Don’t believe in any treatment plan based on the assertion that it is able to cure breast cancer with no side effects.

Take note of the word cure! We already said this and we’ll say it again: There is no alternative medicine and alternative treatment option that can cure breast cancer. Furthermore, even herbs that are generally safe have side effects under certain conditions. If the treatment is being peddled as having no side effects, it only shows that it has not been carefully evaluated and studied in rigorous clinical trials, where side effects would be found out.

Be wary of alternative treatment practices that are huge on marketing terms such as “scientific breakthrough,” “miracle cure,” “secret ingredient,” or “ancient remedy.” You cannot claim “scientific breakthrough” when it has not even been scientifically and medically evaluated, much more proven! Don’t be fooled by personal stories that claim amazing results but provide no actual scientific evidence. Take for example, Belle Gibson, the Australian cookbook author who faked having cancer to convince her followers that she cured it through healthy eating habits and exercise. Click here to read more about her and how she misled her followers.

Research and evaluate the educational background of the proponent of any alternative treatment you are considering. Are they medical experts? Cancer care experts? If they are not, then be warned and beware!

Check if the findings have been published in reliable journals after being reviewed by other scientists and medical experts. Some mass media, such as books, magazines, the internet, TV, infomercials, and radio talk shows may promote an alternative treatment plan but be cautious in taking in the information unless it’s backed up by scientific studies and published in trustworthy medical publications.

Finally, be mindful of alternative medicine proponents who pounce on the medical and scientific community and reject any scientific based treatment. Remember, while certain alternative breast cancer practices may ease the symptoms of breast cancer and the side effects of conventional treatment that goes along with it, it cannot cure the cancer and cannot replace evidenced based breast cancer therapy. Alternative treatment should complement evidence-based treatment and not go against it.

Finally, you should know that the real alternatives are prevention and early detection. Live a healthy lifestyle, do regular breast self-exam, click the link for a free breast self exam tool, and get a yearly mammogram to detect cancer early. Mammogram can detect cancer 2 years before you and your doctor will notice a lump or any symptom. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the lesser the treatment costs, and side effects of therapy, and most importantly, the higher the likelihood of good outcomes from cancer therapy.

Click on the video below and find out how much breast cancer treatment costs if you don’t detect the cancer early.


It’s difficult for most if not impossible to secure N5,000,000 to treat breast cancer. The good news, it’s easier to get a screening mammogram for only N13,500 a year. If you don’t have that money now, save for it. Make it a priority for yourself. No one else can make a priority for you like you can and should. Health is indeed your wealth! Yes, mammography saves lives and it saves your wallet too!