It is unlikely that you can safely assume that your doctors and other health care providers will be well informed about these other options. Western medical training and experience does not emphasize them, and there have not been controlled studies to evaluate their efficacy. Having said this, we note the trend in medical education to include courses of teaching about complementary and alternative therapies. Physicians are increasingly being asked about these options by their patients and need to be able to advise them in an informed and thoughtful manner. In a recent study conducted by physicians at Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, (week of September 1, 1998), the authors state that “as a profession, physicians will increasingly be expected to advise patients who use, seek or demand complementary and alternative therapies.” The study was based on the 117 medical schools replying to their original survey, which had been mailed to all 125 schools listed in The Directory of American Medical Education. The study concludes that in the future, more medical schools will offer courses in complementary and alternative therapies (presently 64 percent of the 117 replying already do) in response to increased patient demand for “a physician who is solidly grounded in conventional, orthodox medicine and is also knowledgeable about the values and limitations of alternative treatments.”
Often oncology social workers or oncology nurses will be better informed about these treatments and may be able to refer you to practitioners in your community. There are other ways to find nontraditional practitioners, and we list some of those organizations in our resources section. Talking with other women who have had breast cancer is also a good way to learn about trusted practitioners in your area.