"Be careful about the credentials of the people promoting the treatment," Gansler said. "The possibility that someone with no medical or scientific treatment is going to come up with a cure for cancer or other diseases is not very likely." Reliable sources of information include the American Cancer Society, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (All have Web sites.)
"Watch out for evidence that is only testimonial," Gansler said. "In some of the most notorious alternative clinics, people will be diagnosed with cancer who don't even have cancer and, later on, they're 'cured.' " The "patient" may actually believe he or she was cured.
Be on the lookout for obvious factual errors. If someone says their "Stage 7" cancer has been cured, be leery. There is no "Stage 7" cancer.
Wally advised: "Before you wholeheartedly jump into these things, you need to really sit down and have a discussion with your physician." This is especially true in an age when alternative and complementary medicines are gaining acceptance. It can be tricky distinguishing between something bogus and something that may have a benefit, Wally added.
The FDA has more on fake cancer cures to be avoided.
SOURCES: Sarah Wally, M.S., R.D., nutritionist, American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, D.C.; Ted Gansler, M.D., director, medical content, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; July 2008 American Institute for Cancer Research newsletter; U.S. Food and Drug Administration