Background and Context:
One in every four cancer patients in Australia uses at least one complementary therapy. One in ten Australians see a naturopath – rising to nearly one in six in complex conditions like cancer.
Naturopaths are the largest unregulated ‘primary care’ health workforce in Australia - estimates range anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000 practitioners. Unregistered health practitioners must not make any claims in regards to the ability to cure cancer. Claims to treat or alleviate the symptoms of cancer or other terminal illnesses should only be made if that claim can be substantiated.
Many naturopaths advertise that they specialise in cancer care or support. But what does that exactly mean? What do naturopaths actually recommend or prescribe?
A survey was distributed to integrative medicine practitioners and naturopaths in Australia examining the attitudes and practices of integrative medical practitioners and naturopaths, their beliefs about the causes of cancer and conventional treatments, awareness of drug interactions, as well as the diets, medicines and other therapies they recommend to their cancer patients.
There are over 28 government-recognised associations representing naturopaths. Each State health department regulates unregistered health practitioners.
The educational standard for Western Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy will be a Bachelor Degree.(Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council). It is impossible to control unregistered practitioners. Naturopaths should be reregistered as allied health professionals under APHRA.
Outcomes/What was learned:
Integrative medical practitioners is a small but very active group in cancer support. There is an interest in circulating tumour cells, hyperthermia and nutritional medicine including IV vitamin C and oral vitamin D.
The naturopaths present a much larger and also very active group in cancer support. They do not attempt to treat the cancer directly but seek to support the patient’s general health during conventional cancer therapy.