Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Breast Cancer + Alternative Medicine = Lower Survival

By Pallave Dasari

The internet allows greater broadcasting of false information about cancer cures, which means that women are treating their breast cancer with alternative therapies known to be the direct cause of preventable deaths.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In Australia, one-in-eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Medical specialists from surgery, oncology and radiotherapy together determine the best evidence-based medicine to attack the cancer effectively. Usually this involves a combination of medical interventions with strong clinical evidence of reducing and curing breast cancer. These medical advances have drastically reduced the death rate from breast cancer from 37% in 1982 to 19% in 2012.

Women with breast cancer who use alternative medicine and refuse medical treatment don’t do as well. The 5-year overall survival rate for women who refuse medical treatment for breast cancer is 43.2% compared with 81.9% for women who are treated medically. When such patients do agree to undergo surgery there has usually been a 20–30 week delay because of their prior use of alternative medicine.

Given these stark figures, why do women seek alternative rather than evidence-based treatment? Women are often shocked by the diagnosis, and nearly one-quarter then suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

The side-effects of medical treatments are challenging: chemotherapy and radiotherapy induce nausea, vomiting, hair loss, mouth ulcers, nerve damage, depression and “foggy” thinking. Surgery includes risks of nerve damage, lymphoedema and breast disfiguration. There is also fear of death and worry for their...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.