Alternative Medicine & Leukemia Treatments

Doctors agree: leukemia has no single cause. Too many risk factors and unknowns about the human body still exist to limit the disease to just one culprit. As Western medicine realizes the complexity of diseases like leukemia, many doctors have also accepted that there may not be a single “best” treatment for restoring a patient back to health.

In this two-part Leukemia Newsletter, we explore the differences between Western medicine and alternative therapies. We also suggest some considerations for choosing an alterative (meaning “outside of Western medical practice”) or complementary (alternative therapies used along with Western medicine to ease treatment pain or promote faster healing) treatment.

How Western/Clinical Medicine Views Leukemia

Western medical science’s approach to leukemia treatments is problem-focused. This is in keeping with the scientific process’s control-and-variable experimentation. The primary focus of these experiments is the leukemia and not the patient, which are spoken about as two separate entities. This separation allows researchers through labs and testing to fine-tune leukemia treatments that attack and kill the cancerous cells. Western medical doctors then apply these researched leukemia treatments to eliminate the cancer.

This view leads to an efficiency that can ignore the patient as a whole person. Deep within Western medical science practice is the hope for a magic pill that will destroy disease without patients having to change their way of living.

How Alternative/Holistic Medicine Views Leukemia

The central idea of alternative medicine (sometimes called “holistic medicine” because it treats the entirety of a person’s mind-body health) is that the body has the power to heal itself. Its alternative therapies speak of the body as an universe composed of complex systems, the entirety of which must be balanced if illness is to be treated or prevented.

Alternative healers do not view leukemia as separate from the individual. In order to heal, leukemia patients must reach a mental/spiritual peace that resolves the body’s unhealthy imbalance. Instead of attacking an illness’s germ or parasite with pills or other treatments, alternative therapies offer a means of supplying guidance to the body’s natural defense systems through lifestyle change. This change often touches on areas of exercise, nutrition, and mental/spiritual health.

Criticisms of Medical Treatments and Alternative Cures

Western, experiment-based doctors criticize many alternative treatments for being untestable. While studies show that both placebos (a “sugar pill,” or a treatment that should show no medical effects) and alternative treatments have positive results in recovering leukemia patients (and suggest a mind-body link), some clinical doctors are hesitant to endorse treatments whose healing processes cannot be tested with instruments. Because alternative healing processes do not possess scientific basis or clear terminology, clinical doctors often refer to alternative cures as dangerous “pseudo” (Latin for “fake”) science.

Alternative medicine healers on their side argue that the view clinical doctors have of their leukemia patients is inhumane and harmful. Many healers suggest this negative view has a direct negative affect on the healing process. Western medicine doctors, these critics claim, see their patients with tunnel-vision terms of infections and afflictions, a view that sees neither the whole person nor the body as a delicate system seeking balance.

Additionally, alternative therapy healers see Western clinical practices as the “alternative” medicine. Most of clinical medicine’s treatments for leukemia and other diseases are at most only decades old and the modern view of the human body and defective genes, bad bacteria, and dangerous viruses is little over a century old. Western clinical treatments, based in experimentation, see these constant changes to our understanding as its strong-point. Skeptics of alternative therapies say that excluding ancient practices from modern medicine results not in a loss of wisdom but, rather, a loss of superstition and ignorance.

The Leukemia Health News is a service of the Consumer Justice Group.

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