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Thinking About Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Guide for People With Cancer

  • Updated: 03/07/2013

Getting Information from Trusted Sources

Government Agencies

There is a lot of information on CAM, so it's important to go to sources you can trust. Good places to start are the government agencies listed in the back of this booklet. They offer lots of information about CAM that might be helpful to you. They may also know of universities or hospitals that have CAM resources.

Be careful of products advertised by people or companies that:

  • Make claims that they have a "cure";
  • Do not give specific information about how well their product works;
  • Make claims only about positive results that have few side effects;
  • Say they have clinical studies, but provide no proof or copies of the studies.

Just remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For ways to find out more about CAM, see the resources section.

Websites

Patients and families have been able to find answers to many of their questions about CAM on the Internet. Many websites are good resources for CAM information. However, some may be unreliable or misleading.

Questions to ask about a website:

  • Who runs and pays for the site?
  • Does it list any credentials?
  • Does it represent an organization that is well-known and respected?
  • What is the purpose of the site, and who is it for?
  • Is the site selling or promoting something?
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information based on facts or only on someone's feelings or opinions?
  • How is the information chosen? Is there a review board or is the content reviewed by experts?
  • How current is the information?
  • Does the site tell when it was last updated?
  • How does the site choose which other sites to link you to?

For more details, see Evaluating Online Sources of Health Information.

Books

A number of books have been written about different CAM therapies. Some books are better than others and contain trustworthy content, while others do not.

If you go to the library, ask the staff for suggestions. Or if you live near a college or university, there may be a medical library available. Local bookstores may also have people on staff who can help you.

It's important to know that information is always changing and that new research results are reported every day. Be aware that if a book is written by only one person, you may only be getting that one person's view.

Questions to ask:

  • Is the author an expert on this subject?
  • Do you know anyone else who has read the book?
  • Has the book been reviewed by other experts?
  • Was it published in the past 5 years?
  • Does the book offer different points of view, or does it seem to hold one opinion?
  • Has the author researched the topic in full?
  • Are the references listed in the back?

Magazine Articles

If you want to look for articles you can trust, ask your librarian to help you look for medical journals, books, and other research that has been done by experts.

Articles in popular magazines are usually not written by experts. Rather, the authors speak with experts, gather information, and then write the article. If claims about CAM are made in magazine articles, remember:

  • The authors may not have expert knowledge in this area;
  • They may not say where they found their information;
  • The articles have not been reviewed by experts;
  • The publisher may have ties to advertisers or other organizations. Therefore, the article may be one-sided.

When you read these articles, you can use the same process that the magazine writer uses:

  • Speak with experts;
  • Ask lots of questions;
  • Then decide if the therapy is right for you.