Complementary therapy players say their treatments help cancer patients –

The EU’s ambitious plans to beat cancer could be complemented by taking into account how complementary therapies can improve quality of life when used alongside medical treatment, the panelists argued at the meeting. ‘a EURACTIV event on “integrative oncology”.

Around 40% of cancer patients in the EU are currently using complementary therapies in addition to their medical treatment, and surveys suggest that patients are demanding greater availability.

Some 3.5 million people in the EU are diagnosed with cancer each year. The cancer control plan recently released by the European Commission stresses the need to improve the lives of cancer patients during their treatment.

Speaking at the EURACTIV event, panelists argued that these complementary therapies do not conflict with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other conventional cancer treatments and could help limit the side effects of conventional treatments. , thus improving the quality of life.

“Integrative medicine encompasses conventional medicine, adding to it other very important specific disciplines of health such as nutrition, physical activity, body and mental therapies, herbal remedies and traditional healers such as homeopathy. or acupuncture, ”said Anne-Laure Leclere. , responsible for scientific and medical affairs at Boiron, which manufactures homeopathic remedies.

Although there is no scientific evidence that complementary therapies such as homeopathy can prevent or treat cancer, according to Erik Buelens, president of the Pro Homoeopathic patient association, a marriage of conventional and complementary therapies brings to patients “the best of both worlds”.

“We are talking about the complementary treatment which is allied with the oncologist and the anticancer treatment and not the alternative,” explained Elio Rossi, director of complementary medicine and dietetics in oncology at the Campo di Marte provincial hospital in Lucca, in Italy.

However, the continuing skepticism of physicians about the value of these therapies has encouraged many patients to pursue additional treatments without notifying their physician.

“We find that many patients are using complementary therapies without their oncologist’s knowledge just to avoid the pressure,” said Buelens, who expressed “regret that some medical institutions still recommend that patients avoid complementary therapies. during cancer treatment “.

“This can be justified when such therapy can chemically interfere with conventional treatment, but there is no such chemical interaction with acupuncture, osteopathy, hypnotherapy, yoga, relics or relaxation, ”Buelens said.

Sirpa Pietikäinen, center-right MEP in the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment and Public Health, argued that the EU’s cancer plan should take complementary and integrative medicine into account in part of a patient-centered program, because the patient has the right to choose the treatment. they prefer.

More research, funded by the EU and Member States, is needed and should be part of the EU4Health program, says Pietikäinen, who also co-chairs Parliament’s interest group on integrative medicine and health.

A draft report from the European Parliament called for sustainable and adequate funding for European cancer research, including a 20% increase for public and private research into cancer therapeutic and diagnostic innovations.

Rossi said Europe was struggling to integrate complementary medicine into state-funded national health systems.

Leclere de Boiron contrasted the situation in Europe with that in the United States, where complementary medicine is used much more widely.

“I think in the United States at one point the government decided to look at complementary therapies. They found the evidence, and that is why now integrative oncology is fully embedded in academies in all health matters in the United States. I think that in Europe we are still one step behind, ”she said.

However, a series of studies have shown that homeopathy has no impact on treating cancer patients beyond a placebo effect, while cancer research institutes have warned that the promise of homeopathic treatments may result in patients rejecting potentially beneficial medical intervention.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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