Alternative therapies gain new respect in cancer treatment
Fair, a traditional Western physician, also uses Eastern therapies for his colon cancer
May 16, 1999
Web posted at: 8:50 p.m. EDT (0050 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen
(CNN) -- Dr. Bill Fair does yoga, takes herbal supplements and meditates -- all to treat his colon cancer.
It's a sign of the times: He's a traditional Western physician, a urologist, who is using Eastern therapies.
"People are being attracted to the advantages of some of these complementary techniques and are using them more and more, and physicians are just beginning to catch up," Fair says.
Another sign of the times: Two major cancer research organizations, the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, are for the first time holding a special meeting solely on the topics of alternative and complementary medicine.
Barrie Cassileth is in charge of what's called integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She says it's high time that establishment medicine started paying attention to other types of therapies.
She says there are reasons why doctors ignored non-Western treatments for so long.
"Most of the complementary therapies, whether they are massage therapy or St. John's wort or some other herbal remedy, are not really patentable," she says. "Therefore, no one's going to make a lot of money from them. Therefore, no one wants to put money into their investigation ... until now."
Western doctors are beginning to realize that massage and acupuncture aren't necessarily a threat to their regular practices.
Fair, for example, does both. He believes he's doing better today because of the alternative therapies plus chemotherapy and surgery.
He says it's a new way of looking at medicine, and he believes his colleagues are beginning to catch on.
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