Creeping quackery: “Integrative” cancer care spreading in NIH-supported centers
More than 60 percent of NIH-supported comprehensive cancer centers in the US include “integrative medicine” in their services and patient information. And in recent years, the centers’ inclusion of dubious treatments has only grown, according to a new article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.
For instance, the number of centers providing patients with information on “healing touch”—a type of “energy medicine”—increased nearly 30 percent between 2009 and 2016. Cancer patients at 26 of the 45 government-designated comprehensive centers around the country can now learn about that hocus-pocus along with actual cancer therapies. Likewise, inclusion of Ayurveda—a pseudoscience involving herbal, mineral, and metal treatments—increased by 10 percent in the same timeframe. Now, 18 of 45 cancer centers supported by the National Cancer Institute provide patients with information on that sorcery.
While the data may alarm evidence-based physicians and health experts, an accompanying article on the semantics of “integrative medicine” may be of more concern. In it, advocates of “integrative medicine” try to define what “integrative medicine” is, exactly. But rather than a clear definition, they create a vague and broad one that includes “mind and body practices.” It involves everything from the “medicalized” components of a healthy lifestyle (such as simple exercise) to what can charitably be described as magic.