It is often the case that the cancer itself scares a person, but equally the treatment for the disease, its side effects and the impacts it can have on one’s life can cause apprehension. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation; the most commonly used treatments for cancer can cause very significant distress and for this reason the use of alternative therapies as palliative care in cancer has become so popular and widely used.
Aims of alternative and complementary treatments for cancer
While alternative and complementary therapies (CAM) are often seen to have promising results for cancer patients in terms of palliative care (to ease the suffering), they are not seen to be effective for actually curing the disease.
CAM therapies can help to improve quality of life of cancer patients – They can help in decreasing stress and anxiety and increasing relaxation, relieving pain, improving sleep and may also help to reduce the side effects that cancer treatments typically produce. The CAM treatment can be customized to the person’s needs and can help to improve overall quality of life and even in cases boost immunity, thereby helping the body fight the cancer.
Which CAM therapies are used for cancer and how?
According to estimates, up to half of cancer patients in the United States use some or other form of CAM. The therapies are used mainly because they have few if any side effects, and are seen to relieve pain, control side effects of chemo, radiation, and so on, as well as give a boost to the immune system.
1. Auricular Acupuncture
It is seen to be effective in treating pain and other cancer symptoms. This is ear acupuncture or auricular therapy that believes the ear to be the micro system of the entire body. Stimulation of the ear’s surface is supposed to help relieve many ailments present in the body.
2. Reiki and Therapeutic touch
These are other forms of CAM that a person may find soothing and relaxing at a very stressful time of their lives. They can give valuable mental peace during a difficult time and this can also help a person deal with physical problems as well.
Other alternative therapies such as music therapy, hypnosis and massage can also have similar palliative effects of reducing anxiety and depression and promoting feelings of relaxation and wellbeing.
It is known to help in easing the nausea that chemotherapy is known to cause. Fatigue and constantly feeling tired or enervated is another one of the problematic side effects of cancer therapies which can negatively impact quality of life. Acupuncture can also help with controlling fatigue and music therapy and massage are also thought to help.
4. Transcendental meditation and mindfulness based therapies
These can also help to reduce stress and anxiety that accompany cancer and its treatment.
Combinations of CAM can also be used as per individual patient requirements. However caution has to be used to reveal to one’s oncologist information about any and all CAM therapies. This is to avoid any adverse drug interaction with any CAM therapies. This is particularly important when using botanicals or any kind of herbal remedies.