Find out why you need to be wary of clinics in Mexico that offer alternative and complementary therapies.
About alternative and complementary cancer treatments
People often use the terms alternative therapies and complementary therapies to mean the same thing. They both mean treatments that are not part of conventional medicine. But there is an important difference between complementary therapies and alternative therapies.
Complementary therapies are used alongside conventional medical treatments. So you can use them while you carry on with your treatment programme. They aim to ease stress and improve physical and psychological wellbeing. Examples of complementary therapies include:
A reputable complementary therapist would encourage you to discuss treatments with your cancer doctor or GP. And they will not claim that the therapy will treat or cure your cancer. There are many different types of complementary therapies and people with cancer use the therapies for many different reasons.
Unlike complementary therapies, people who use alternative therapies are more likely to stop using conventional medical treatment. Some people may choose not to try conventional treatments at all. Or they may stop conventional treatments and use only an alternative therapy.
Some alternative therapists may claim that they can cure your cancer with their treatments, even if conventional medical treatments can't cure you. But there is no scientific evidence that alternative therapies can help to treat people with cancer.
Very little research has been done on alternative therapies and there is not enough scientific evidence to tell us whether they are any help at all. Even though some have been tested and shown not to work, these claims of cure are still made.
Get medical advice
If you are using, or thinking about using, complementary or alternative therapies it is very important to discuss this with your own cancer doctors. Some complementary and alternative therapies may interfere with conventional cancer treatments and could be very harmful to you.
About alternative cancer treatments in Mexico
If you search the internet, you will find more than 35 alternative care clinics and hospitals in northern Mexico, along the US border. Most of these are near Tijuana. They offer a wide range of cancer treatments that they describe as effective and curative. Some of these treatments are very difficult to find in any other country. The clinics are placed along the border so that wealthy US patients can get to them relatively easily.
For many years the US medical system has been trying to convince people that many of the alternative therapies offered in Mexico are dangerous. For many of them there is no scientific evidence to say that they are safe or even work. But some people with cancer still choose to go there and use them.
The laws that govern the Mexican health care system are very different to those in countries such as the USA and Europe. Mexico is far less strict in their regulations than other countries. So clinics can offer alternative cancer treatments that have not been scientifically proven to work. This is a serious problem and for some cancer patients may cause them a lot of harm.
The internet has become a major source of information for both patients and health professionals. It can be an easy and effective way of finding information about cancer therapies. But anyone can write information or advertise treatments about healthcare on the internet. So if someone feels like writing about using an unproven alternative cancer therapy in Mexico instead of conventional medical treatment, they can.
Types of alternative cancer treatment offered in Mexico
There are many different types of alternative therapy clinic in Mexico. We don’t have exact details of all the therapies they offer. A few examples of those advertised on the internet or in the media include:
- issels treatment
- nutritional therapy such as the Gerson diet
- high dose vitamins and dietary supplements
- metabolic therapy – a program developed to train the immune system to get rid of your cancer
- oxygen therapies
- hyperthermia (high temperature therapy)
Many of the clinics in Mexico offer a package of care that may involve using a combination of treatments. Often the package of care sounds very attractive because it is advertised as relaxing and caring. You will have individual care and the clinic will usually say that they can help you.
There are reports of people with cancer leaving these clinics in Mexico very happy with their care and claiming that the treatment did cure their cancer. But we have no evidence to prove this. There are also many reports of people who have had severe and life threatening side effects from the treatments. People with advanced cancers are most at risk of not being able to cope with side effects of the treatments. Many go to the clinics in a poor state of health and desperate for help. Some of these alternative cancer clinics in Mexico have no medical facilities available on site to cover emergencies that could arise.
The cost of alternative cancer treatments in Mexico
Many of the alternative cancer treatments offered in Mexico cost a lot of money. Remember that you will have to pay for flights and accommodation as well as the treatment. The treatment costs can sometimes be thousands of pounds per month.
From individual patient reports and advertisements on the internet, costs range from £2,000 to well over £20,000. The actual costs will depend on the type of alternative treatment you have and on how long you carry on with it.
What to remember - cancer treatments in Mexico
We are concerned that these alternative therapy treatments are often sold for a great deal of money. And people with cancer can be very vulnerable. It is understandable that patients or their relatives will try anything if they think it might work. But some of these treatments are just money making businesses targeting people who are ill and very vulnerable. We consider this to be very wrong.
Our message is:
- be careful
- make sure you look into all available information
- talk to your own cancer doctor before you buy anything