10 Complementary cancer treatments to consider

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10 Complementary cancer treatments to consider

Anyone who has had to endure the rigors of cancer treatment understands very well the interest in considering complementary cancer care. Loss of control over their health or dealing with painful and unpleasant side effects, are often reasons why cancer patients look into possible complementary cancer therapies. These patients know the importance of following their oncologist’s recommendations for treatment and should not be looking to replace their current traditional cancer treatments with complementary treatments. While complementary cancer treatments are not guaranteed to cure cancer, they often can at least provide some relief from side effects of traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.  Common side effects of traditional cancer treatments may include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress.

Complementary medicine is defined as treatments that are used along with standard medical treatments but are not considered to be standard treatments. One example is using acupuncture to help lessen some side effects of cancer treatments. Anyone with cancer considering using some type of a complementary cancer medicine for reducing side effects must have a thorough discussion with their oncologist before trying one. It is important to make sure the complementary treatment is safe and will not interfere with the effectiveness of their current cancer treatments they are receiving.

By working closely with their doctor, it can be determined of providing the right balance between traditional medicines and complementary treatments.

Complementary cancer treatments to consider

There are many complementary cancer treatments that are likely to be safe and that may provide some relief of side effects. Again, all cancer patients need to get the approval of their doctor before trying any of them on their own.  Here are 10 complementary cancer treatments to consider:

1.     Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a safe procedure when performed by a licensed practitioner using sterile needles. During the treatment, a practitioner inserts tiny needles into the skin at precise points. Studies show acupuncture may be helpful in relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy. It may also help relieve certain types of pain in people with cancer. Any cancer patient on blood thinners or has low blood counts, should not consider acupuncture until talking with their doctor. 

2.     Aromatherapy – This complementary treatment uses fragrant oils to provide a calming sensation. Oils, infused with scents such as lavender, are applied to the skin with massage during a treatment.  They can also be added to bath water to release their scents into the air. This therapy can be useful for relieving nausea, pain and stress. Aromatherapy can be performed by a practitioner or a person can use it on their own. Generally aromatherapy is safe however, be mindful of any skin sensitivity to the oils. It is recommended that people with estrogen sensitive cancer, such as some breast cancers, should avoid large amounts of lavender oil and tea tree oil to the skin. 

3.     Exercise – Studies have shown keeping physically active with exercise may help manage side effects from traditional cancer treatments. It is recommended to do gentle exercise which may help reduce fatigue, stress and for better sleep. In addition, engaging in a regular exercise program during cancer, appears to help people live longer and improves their overall quality of life.  

4.     Hypnosis – For cancer patient experiencing anxiety, pain and stress, may want to consider hypnosis. Hypnosis is a deep state of concentration. During a hypnosis session, a certified therapist will talk in a gentle voice helping a person to relax. They often will focus on helping their client to learn techniques on controlling their pain and reducing stress. Generally hypnosis is safe but anyone with a mental illness should tell the therapist of their condition. 

5.     Massage – As long as a person is working with a knowledgeable massage therapist, this can be a safe and enjoyable experience. As the practitioner kneads your skin, muscles and tendons, this can help relieve muscle tension, stress, and promote relaxation. If a cancer patient’s blood counts are low, it is recommended to refrain from getting a massage. Also, the massage therapist should avoid massaging near surgical scars, radiation treatment areas or tumors and anyone with bone cancer, should ask tell the therapist to use light pressure. 

6.     Meditation – This is a state of deep concentration focusing the mind on one image, sound, or idea, such as a positive thought. During meditation, deep-breathing is often encouraged. This safe complementary therapy is best for relieving stress and anxiety and can be down several times a day. 

7.     Music therapy – This therapy is another safe complementary treatment that requires no musical talent to try. Working with a certified music therapist, the sessions involve listening to music, playing instruments, singing songs or writing lyrics. Either done individually or in a group setting, music therapy may help relieve pain, and control nausea and vomiting.

8.     Relaxation techniques – A couple of different types include visualization exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques are meant to help focus attention on calming the mind and relaxing muscles. It is particularly helpful for reducing anxiety, fatigue and improved sleep. 

9.     Tai chi – This form of exercise incorporates gentle movements and deep breathing valuable for relieving stress. The slow movements do not require great physical strength and can be easily adapted to a person’s abilities. Tai chi is usually taught in group classes or it can be done individually.

10.  Yoga – Yoga has become a very popular form of stretching exercises with deep breathing. During a yoga session, various poses are done that require bending, twisting, and stretching. This can bring about stress relief, reduce fatigue and result in better sleep. Any yoga poses that cause pain should be avoided.