Cancer is undoubtedly a grueling diagnosis to receive. The disease itself is debilitating, and often treatments may leave patients feeling drained and overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally. While we have not yet discovered the secret to wiping out cancer altogether, we have made significant progress in learning natural methods to help ease cancer symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.
Those complementary therapies cover a range of products and practices that are outside the realm of traditional, mainstream medicine.
Complementary treatment methods are typically used in conjunction with standard cancer therapy, and some patients find them very useful in controlling certain symptoms, managing side effects of mainstream treatments or improving their overall sense of peace and well-being. Some examples of safe, effective complementary cancer therapies include meditation for stress-relief, herbal tea for nausea, massage therapy, and visualization techniques to help patients relieve pain.
Many of these natural therapies have been proven effective over time by scientific studies, and some have been incorporated into standard cancer care plans to help improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.
Dietary changes can help strengthen your body, and the easiest natural approach to coping with cancer is to avoid high-fat, high-sodium foods. Increasing intake of fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods is often recommended. Talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or work with a nutritionist to develop a suitable plan.
A regular mind-body practice has been proven to effectively reduce stress and anxiety, as well as helping control pain during cancer treatment. These therapies can be used in conjunction with mainstream cancer care to elevate your sense of mental well-being, which can have a direct impact on your physical health. Common mind-body therapies include soulful practices like art therapy, music therapy, meditation and aromatherapy, as well as physical practices like yoga, tai chi and reiki.
Massage therapy can strengthen the body’s immune response and alleviate the pain, fatigue and anxiety common among those fighting cancer. In one study, women with breast cancer not only reduced their anxiety and pain through massage therapy, but they also eventually needed less pain medication to ease their symptoms. If you’re considering adding massage to your regular cancer treatments, be sure to find a licensed professional massage therapist who has experience working with cancer patients.
Another non-traditional natural treatment method is acupuncture. That ancient form of Chinese medicine has been used for centuries to help gently stimulate the nervous system. For cancer patients, acupuncture has been found to help relieve fatigue, control uncomfortable hot flashes, reduce nausea and vomiting, and ease pain. Acupuncture does carry certain risks, though, so be sure to discuss this option with your doctor before undergoing treatment.
Biofeedback is a method of training the body to control its response to certain stimuli and can be used to combat the side effects of chemotherapy. During biofeedback training, you are connected to electrical sensors that detect and record subtle reactions in the body. Over time, biofeedback might help you gain more control over involuntary responses like muscle tension, blood pressure or heart rate.
Maintain connections with friends and family, and accept their offers of help with transportation, meal preparation, household chores or running errands. Get plenty of rest and surround yourself with people who love you and want to support you through this difficult time. You may also want to find out about cancer support groups in your area, as sharing your experiences with fellow patients who understand your worries and triumphs can be extremely beneficial.
One of the best things you can do to improve your quality of life is to learn everything you can about your specific type of cancer, its location, rate of cure or remission, treatment options and their side effects, tests and procedures you’ll need to consider, and any other questions you have about what to expect.
Obviously, keeping an open line of communication with your doctor is essential, but you may also want to do research on your own to help inform your discussions with your medical team. Oncotarget and other professional publications like it discuss the latest research and topics concerning the study of oncology and all types of cancer, and can be a valuable source of information.
Taking a natural approach to coping with cancer can help lift your spirits and improve your quality of life. Discuss your options with your doctor and decide which complementary therapies and treatment methods could be right for you.