Alternative medicine refers to practices, products, and systems that are not considered part of mainstream medicine. For instance, you probably have heard of alternative cancer treatments like acupuncture, hypnosis, or detoxification diets using special foods and preparation methods.
Some alternative methods are provided by people with formal training and education, such as music or art therapy, and may be offered along with regular cancer treatments.
While some methods can take time and cost money (i.e., strict diets or traveling to another country for unique treatments), others are also easy to use and cost-effective, like herbs, vitamins, or homeopathic remedies.
Reasons People Use Alternative Cancer Treatments
Some people with cancer use alternative cancer treatments for various reasons, including:
- They want to relieve the side effects of cancer without taking more medications.
- They want to embrace a more active role in improving their health and well-being.
- They are looking for a treatment approach that is not unpleasant and has fewer side effects.
- They want to try alternative theories of health and disease as well as alternative treatments.
How Alternative Treatments Help Cancer Patients
Alternative cancer treatments might not always play a direct role in curing the condition, but they are known to be highly effective in helping patients cope with some of cancer’s unpleasant symptoms. Common symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, vomiting, stress, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety are minimized using alternative treatments.
Incorporating the best evidence-based alternative cancer treatments with the treatments you receive from your doctors has been known to ease many of the symptoms associated with the condition and its treatment. Consider it best to discuss what your options are with your doctor so you can both decide on the strategies that will work best for you.
Alternative Cancer Treatments
If you are considering alternative cancer treatments, below are some of the options you can look into:
Aromatherapy makes use of fragrance oils to provide a calming sensation. Oils infused with scents like lavender can be added to bathwater or applied to the skin during a massage. You can also heat the fragrant oils, so the smell is released into the air. Aromatherapy may be helpful for patients that are experiencing stress, pain, and nausea.
Aromatherapy is something you or a practitioner can do. While known to be safe, some people might have an allergic reaction to the oil. Those who are estrogen-sensitive (i.e., those with breast cancer) should refrain from applying a generous amount of tea tree and lavender oil on their skin.
During a hypnotherapy session, a therapist may talk to you gently and help you relax. A therapist may also help you focus on specific goals, such as minimizing stress or managing pain.
Hypnosis might be beneficial for those cancer patients who are experiencing pain, stress, and anxiety. The practice might also help prevent anticipatory nausea and vomiting often associated with chemotherapy. When done by a certified therapist, hypnosis is considered safe.
During an acupuncture treatment, a practitioner will insert tiny needles into the skin at precise points. Many studies have indicated that acupuncture can be effective at relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy. It has also been known to help ease certain types of pain in cancer patients.
Acupuncture is deemed safe when done by a licensed practitioner using sterile needles. If this is something you would like to try, ask your doctor to recommend trusted practitioners. Acupuncture is not considered safe for cancer patients with low blood counts or those who are taking blood thinners.
During a music therapy session, you might sing songs, write lyrics, listen to music, or play musical instruments. A trained music therapist may guide you through activities that are specially designed for your unique needs. You also have the option to engage in music therapy in a group setting.
Music therapy has been known to help control nausea and vomiting and ease the pain. Besides being safe, music therapy won’t require that you have any musical talent or know-how before you can participate. Most medical centers have certified music therapists, so don’t hesitate to ask if this is something you’re interested in.
Fundamentally, yoga is a combination of stretching exercises and deep breathing. During a yoga session, the body is positioned in various poses that require stretching, twisting, and bending. There are multiple types of yoga, and each has its variations.
Yoga is known to provide some stress relief for cancer patients. It has also been known to help reduce fatigue and improve sleep. Before starting a yoga class, check with your doctor if they can recommend yoga instructors who regularly work with people with health conditions like cancer.
It is also ideal that you refrain from doing painful yoga poses. An excellent yoga instructor will be able to provide alternative poses that are pain-free and safe for you.
During a massage, the practitioner will knead your skin, tendons, and muscles to relieve tension and stress and promote relaxation. Several massage methods exist. A massage can be deep with pressure, or it can be light and gentle.
Many studies have indicated that massage can be beneficial in relieving pain in cancer patients. It has also been known to help relieve stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Massages can be safe, given that you work with a seasoned and knowledgeable massage therapist who regularly works with cancer patients.
If you have a very low blood count, getting a massage is not ideal for you. When you get a massage, ask the therapist to avoid massaging tumors, radiation treatment areas, or areas near your surgical scars.
If you have bone cancer or other bone conditions like osteoporosis, ask the therapist to use light and gentle pressure rather than a deep one.
Exercise might help effectively manage signs and symptoms during and after cancer treatment. Gentle exercises might also help relieve stress and fatigue and might even help you sleep better. Several studies show that an exercise program might help cancer patients improve their overall quality of life and longevity.
If you have not been exercising routinely, it is ideal that you check first with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Start gradually, and add more to your routine as you go. Check with your doctor if you can do at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
Before trying any alternative cancer treatments, talk to your doctor if it would be a good idea. Your doctor can help ensure all the aspects of your cancer care work seamlessly together.