Complementary Alternative Cancer Therapies
Physical and Psychological Supportive Cam Therapies
Rehabilitation programs for cancer patients involve a combination of physical and psychological interventions that improve the patient’s physical comfort and ability to function (Pandey M et al 2001; Santiago-Palma J et al 2001). These are thought to alleviate the emotional distress caused by the patient’s loss of mobility and need for self-care (Cheville AL 2005; Fialka-Moser V et al 2003).
Acupuncture improves cancer symptoms and treatment-related side effects such as nausea, pain, hot flashes, and breathlessness (Samuels N 2002). Indeed, the American Cancer Society recommends the use of acupuncture in cancer patients (Samuels N 2002). In a study of the use of acupuncture in cancer patients, as many as 60 percent of patients showed an improvement in their symptoms (Johnstone PA et al 2002).
Hypnosis improves the symptom of hot flashes (Elkins G et al 2004) and overall quality of life by reducing anxiety and insomnia in breast cancer patients (Elkins G et al 2004). Hypnosis is also recommended as an integral part of palliative care (symptom relief) for cancer patients, with a view to reducing pain and shortness of breath (Marcus J et al 2003). In addition, hypnosis improves mental health and overall well-being in cancer patients treated with radiation therapy (Stalpers LJ et al 2005).
Breathing Exercises. A study of cancer patients recovering from stem cell transplantation showed that following a breathing exercise program for six weeks reduced levels of fatigue (Kim SD et al 2005).
Massage and Aromatherapy improve the general psychological health of cancer patients and, in particular, reduce anxiety levels, pain, and nausea (Fellowes D et al 2004). Breast cancer sufferers receiving massage therapy have improved immune system function and feel less depressed and angry about their circumstances (Hernandez-Reif M et al 2005). A combination of aromatherapy, foot soaking, and reflexology improves the fatigue that is often experienced by cancer patients (Kohara H et al 2004).
Yoga Meditation. Kundalini yoga involves a variety of meditation techniques that are effective in alleviating anxiety, fear, anger, and depression (Shannahoff-Khalsa DS 2005). Indeed, this type of yoga helped breast and prostate cancer patients think positively about their cancers (Shannahoff-Khalsa DS 2005).
Humor. Laughing has always been recognized as a good relaxation and coping strategy. Scientific studies have now demonstrated that laughter is able to reduce anxiety and physical discomfort in cancer patients (Christie W et al 2005). Laughter has a beneficial effect on the immune system and improves the function of natural killer cells, which play an important role in counteracting cancer (Bennett MP et al 2003; Berk LS et al 2001; Christie W et al 2005; Takahashi K et al 2001). Laughter is also known to improve pain threshold in cancer patients and to reduce levels of stress hormones (Christie W et al 2005).
Positive Visualization. Adoption of hope-inspiring interventions by cancer care providers is associated with an improvement in patients’ ability to cope with the fear and anxiety associated with a cancer diagnosis (Felder BE 2004; Watts S et al 2004).
Exercise. Various forms of exercise, including Tai Chi Chuan, improve the quality of life of cancer patients (Jones LW et al 2004; Mustian KM et al 2004) recovering from surgery or undergoing treatment. Exercise alleviated fatigue and improved heart and lung function and overall physical well-being (Dimeo FC et al 2004; Kendall AR et al 2005; Mock V et al 2005; Stevinson C et al 2004; Thorsen L et al 2005).
Hydration. Many cancer patients, particularly those with terminal disease, suffer from low levels of body fluids, or dehydration (Dalal S et al 2004). Artificial hydration in these patients improves dehydration symptoms (Bruera E et al 2005) and is also useful in treating chemotherapy-related diarrhea and kidney disease (Polycarpe E et al 2004; Saltz LB 2003). However, artificial hydration should be approached with caution and used according to each patient’s medical condition, as it can also aggravate symptoms associated with water retention, such as edema (Morita T et al 2004; Morita T et al 2005).
What You Have Learned So Far
- Complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) represent one of the fastest-growing adjunctive cancer treatment modalities in the United States.
- The most commonly used CAM modalities include nutritional supplements, mind-body approaches, and acupuncture.
- When used properly, nutritional supplementation can enhance the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments, boost the immune system, and improve the patient’s quality of (and control over) life.
- Many cancer patients take supplemental nutrition during cancer treatment to alleviate treatment toxicities and to improve well-being.
- Synthetic antioxidants (such as amifostine), available by prescription only, are widely used by both medical and radiation oncologists to control the adverse effects of cancer treatments.