A diagnosis of cancer and the ensuing treatments can be devasting. It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Often patients need some auxiliary support to help them through this trying time. Some complementary therapies have been shown to improve the symptoms of cancer treatment.
Complementary therapies are those that support treatment and are approved by medical professionals as a supplemental technique. This is different from alternative medicine which can be used in the place of conventional medicine.
The approach of combining the therapies and philosophy of Eastern medical traditions (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda) and Naturopathic medicine with conventional medicine is known as Integrative medicine.
Applying a holistic approach to healing is growing in the medical field and especially for treating cancer. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center sees complementary therapies as an integral part of treatment because cancer requires treating the whole person. Here are a few complementary therapies recommended by various cancer research and treatment institutes.
Research reported by the Society of Integrative Oncology showed that acupuncture can ease pain from radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and cancer. It was found to be especially suitable for pain that is difficult to control. It is thought that acupuncture increases the release of endorphins which are natural painkillers and encourages feelings of well-being.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute says that acupuncture may also help with nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, and instill a sense of well-being.
While yoga and cancer studies are limited, some showed promise that it might help with anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions associated with cancer and cancer treatment. The American College of Chest Physicians suggested that yoga reduces fatigue and helps with sleep.
Tai Chi and Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong are low impact exercises that are part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. They are often referred to as meditation in motion. The National Institute of Health suggests that tai chi and qigong helps cancer patient by improving their quality of life. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, tai chi can boost the immune system, relieve pain, anxiety, and stress.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation was shown to help patients by reducing stress, anxiety, fatigue, and improve sleep. Meditation studies show enhances the immune system. A healthy immune system is crucial to healing from cancer.
Research published on Pub Med, a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institute of Health reported that some herbs showed promise for treating cancer symptoms. Ginger was one of the herbs suggested for reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea.
The issue with botanicals is that some may interfere with chemotherapy medicine and other cancer treatments. So, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has created a database that provides objective and evidence-based information on 276 herbs and supplements.
The information is managed by a pharmacist and botanical experts with consultations from Integrative medicine experts. Here’s the link https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/diagnosis-treatment/symptom-management/integrative-medicine/herbs.
Massages were another therapy that appeared to help with some cancer-related pain, nausea, anxiety, and other symptoms. A statistical analysis reported on Pub Med determined that massage could be useful for cancer pain, especially pain from surgery. The report showed that foot reflexology was the most effective type of massage.
Other therapies suggested by the Cleveland Clinic that may be beneficial for cancer patients are biofeedback, Reiki, hypnotherapy, art therapy, journal writing, and cognitive therapy.
It very important that cancer patients always coordinate with and check with their oncologist before considering any complementary therapy.
While a cancer diagnosis can be life-changing, it doesn’t need to be life-limiting. Complementary therapies can help patients gain a sense of themselves and help with physical discomforts as they go through treatment.
- About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products. Retrieved from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/diagnosis-treatment/symptom-management/integrative-medicine/herbs.
- Complementary and Integrative Approaches for Cancer Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects: What the Science Says (May 2015). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/cancer-science
- Complementary Therapy. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/16883-complementary-therapy.
- Lee, SH, et al. Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy on Cancer Pain (July 14, 2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25784669.
- Maciel, Lana. Tai chi: Healing from the inside out (December 29, 2010). Retrieved from https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/cancerwise/2010/12/tai-chi-healing-from-the-inside-out.html.
- Miller, S., et al. Botanicals used in complementary and alternative medicine treatment of cancer: clinical science and future perspectives (September 17, 2008). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18694368.
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong: In Depth. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/taichi/introduction.htm.