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"Little scientific evidence" about complementary therapies

29th October 2007

It is "vital" that more research is commissioned into the use of complementary therapies by breast cancer patients, Breakthrough Breast Cancer has said.

Over 60 per cent of sufferers use complementary therapies alongside traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Such therapies include relaxation techniques, massage and acupuncture.

Julie Flynn, senior research development officer for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said these therapies were "not given with the aim of curing the disease but some have a positive effect on patients' wellbeing".

Ms Flynn highlighted the crucial distinction between complementary and alternative therapies, the latter being a substitute for conventional treatments. Breakthrough Breast Cancer does not advocate alternative therapies.

Ms Flynn added: "It's really important to realise that there's little scientific evidence about how [complementary therapies] may work or how safe they are for patients to use while undergoing conventional treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and we want to find out whether any complementary therapies are effective in alleviating treatment side-effects and how they may interact."

As many as one third of people with cancer in the UK use some form of complementary therapy during their illness, according to Cancer Research UK.

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