Integrative physicians and an herbal cancer “cure”

Eran Ben-Arye, Shoshana Keren Rosenberg, Noah Samuels

Abstract

Oncologists are frequently asked about herbal remedies claiming to “cure” cancer, or at least delay its progression. While complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) should be aimed primarily at improving quality-of-life (QOL) related concerns, “wonder cures” are part of an alternative health belief model providing hope for a “miracle” where conventional treatment has failed. We describe a physician with extensive small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) undergoing chemotherapy, with significant toxicities and impaired daily function. He had come for an integrative physician (IP) consultation, provided by a medical doctor dually trained in CIM and supportive cancer care, taking place in a conventional supportive cancer care service. We describe the IP consultation in general and regarding an herbal remedy which was being promoted as a “cure” for cancer. The subsequent patient-tailored CIM treatment process, in which patients receive evidence-based guidance on treatments which address QOL-related concerns, are presented.