Colon Cancer Special Report
Alternative and Complementary Therapies for Colon Cancer
Johns Hopkins specialists discuss eight complementary therapies to ease symptoms of colon cancer.
The truth: There is no "natural cancer cure, and so-called therapies based on that claim have injured many cancer patients -- either directly, because of dangerous "treatments, or indirectly, by keeping them from using methods validated by solid research.
Now the good news: Many complementary therapies, used along with conventional medicine, can support cancer treatments, reduce some of the adverse effects of cancer treatment, ease tension and pain, and contribute to overall health. This is known as integrative medicine.
Integrative medicine can be particularly important for palliative care: interventions that contribute to comfort and well-being but not necessarily to a cure. Yoga, acupuncture, meditation, aromatherapy, relaxation techniques, and spiritual healing are used often in this way.
If you decide to try something your doctor has not prescribed, be sure to tell your medical team. Your cancer treatments have been carefully tailored for your situation, and adding anything else could have serious effects or interact with your cancer treatments. Look for an integrative practitioner who is also a licensed physician or who works with a medical doctor. Any integrative therapist should be willing to give reports to and consult with your doctor.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 1: Acupuncture -- The ancient treatment has been shown to ease many conditions associated with cancer, especially those connected with chemotherapy. Studies have show that acupuncture may relieve postoperative nausea and vomiting and chemotherapy-induced acute vomiting, especially when used along with conventional medications. It can also relieve peripheral neuropathy, an often-painful form of nerve damage sometimes caused by chemotherapy.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 2: MindBody Therapies -- A solid body of evidence shows that meditation and relaxation can ease pain, relieve stress, and improve depression. In fact, your cancer center or local clinic probably has a stress-reduction program that insurance will cover, at least in part. Programs may involve guided imagery or visualization, relaxation, and breathing techniques to enhance treatment and control pain. Meditation has been shown to contribute to relaxation and pain relief and to enhance some treatments.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 3: Yoga and Tai Chi -- These ancient Eastern movement practices were developed to balance mind and body and have been shown to improve mood and ease pain. They also contribute to muscle strength, energy level, and balance. However, they involve physical exercise, and some classes can be quite strenuous. Ask at your cancer center about tai chi or yoga classes. Some are covered by insurance or offered at a minimal cost. Look for classes developed especially for people with chronic illness or who are recovering from cancer. There are also videos and DVDs especially for cancer patients that you can use at home.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 4: Aromatherapy -- An entire philosophy and even some research support the idea that certain odors can be calming or stimulating. Most aromatherapy involves essential oils from plants or herbs. You may find aromatherapy pleasant, and it is unlikely to cause harm.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 5: Spiritual Healing -- Religion and spiritual practices bring solace and comfort to many and can be an important part of your mental well-being. Studies show they may relieve stress and anxiety and contribute to relaxation, and others who share your spiritual beliefs can be supportive. However, do not expect a cure from spiritual or religious practices, and avoid anyone who says that your thoughts or a lack of faith caused your cancer. Such negative influences will not help you to get well or feel better.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 6: Healing Retreats -- Cancer retreats can help patients and their families and caregivers. These are special residential centers, often in a beautiful setting, that offer programs to help understand and cope with the stress and complex emotional aspects of a cancer diagnosis. Programs often include mindbody exercises, such as meditation and yoga; nutritional advice; help with the effects of both the cancer and its treatments; and an opportunity to be in a private setting with others who are going through a similar experience.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 7: Herbs and Supplements -- Its true that many conventional medicines were developed from botanicals and herbal therapies. However, when used in their unprocessed state, as supplements, special natural formulas, and herbal remedies, most have not been shown effective in treating or preventing cancer. In fact, many of the so-called natural cancer cures may cause harm. They can damage other organs and even lead to death. Also, anything you ingest could interact with conventional cancer treatments.
However, some herbs and supplements may help with your symptoms or ease some of the most unpleasant side effects of treatment. For instance, peppermint may ease nausea and vomiting, and there also is evidence that taking ginger by mouth might help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea.
- Complementary Cancer Therapy 8: Irrigation and Enemas -- The Internet abounds with ads for cleansing colon treatments and enemas that are touted to prevent or cure cancer by clearing toxins and unhealthy buildup out of your colon. There is no scientific basis whatsoever for these claims. Whats more, frequent use of laxatives and enemas can cause dehydration and other health problems. Also, these treatments are not very pleasant. If you did not enjoy the colonic cleansing you underwent before colonoscopy, you probably wont like these very much, either.
Posted in Colon Cancer on April 1, 2008