Many patients today are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments. Complementary treatments are typically integrated with standard medical treatments. Alternative medicine refers to practices used in place of standard treatments.
Cancer-related CAM practices are usually based on anecdotal studies and reports, although studies are underway to determine the effectiveness and safety of these alternative treatments. The Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM), a department of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), funds many of these studies.
Alternative cancer treatments fall into one of four categories: alternative medicine, mind-body methods, nutritional therapy, and biologic treatments. Here are three examples of alternative cancer treatments. While they cannot cure cancer, they effective complements to conventional cancer treatment. This is true for both common cancers such as breast cancer and more rare cancers like mesothelioma.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that applies needles, pressure, heat, and other treatments to the skin. In cancer therapy, it is mainly used to control cancer pain, nausea, and vomiting. According to the NCI, clinical trials provide strong evidence supporting acupuncture as an effective way to reduce chemotherapy side effects. Studies also suggest it may improve the immune system.
Acupuncture is just one of several alternative medicine treatments used in cancer therapy. Others include Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Yoga is one of several mind-body CAM practices for cancer treatment. Based in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga consists of physical postures, meditation, relaxation, and breathing techniques. There are many different yoga styles. Most cancer therapies use hatha yoga, which emphasizes posture, breathing, and movements that are safe and gentle for cancer patients.
Numerous studies rank yoga among the top ten CAM modalities, for both cancer patients and the general population. The non-aerobic activity reduces stress, improves breathing, controls blood pressure, and relieves some of the symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy. Other mind-body methods that offer similar benefits include aromatherapy, hypnosis, and energy healing.
According to CTCA, nutrition therapy is an important component of cancer treatment. Good nutrition is vital to the healing process, and nutrition therapy can support the process. According to the NCI, nearly one-third of all cancer deaths are linked to malnutrition. Dietitians can recommend nutrient-rich foods for a healthy cancer-fighting diet.
Vitamins, minerals, herbs, oils, and other dietary supplements can enhance nutrition and promote healing. But too much of a good thing may not be safe. Nutritional supplements can interact with cancer medications, so patients should consult their doctor before starting a supplements program.
Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April. If you would like to contact her she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org