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5 integrative medicine recommendations for cancer patients


Cancer affects the whole person: body, mind and spirit, not just the system it targets. Many find that cancer treatment best serves a patient when conventional treatments targeting the body are supported by integrative medicine approaches that help body, mind and spirit. Research-based, proven methods are used by integrative medicine providers to help decrease the side effects of the conventional treatment such as pain, anxiety, dry mouth and sleep disturbances. While supporting the patient’s overall recovery, these five recommendations can help a patient heal and improve peace of mind:

1.)   Acupuncture – Originating 3,000 years ago in China, acupuncture involves placing fine needles into specific points on the body to elicit a healing response. The stimulation of these needles corrects the flow of energy, or qi, along channels throughout the body, called meridians. Studies show acupuncture can help with nausea and dry mouth. The treatment can also be helpful for pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and stress.

2.)   Massage therapy – Another treatment that has been used for thousands of years, massage therapy is a way to heal the body, maintain wellness and to demonstrate compassionate support to others through touch. There are more than 250 variations of massage and bodywork techniques, each helping to induce relaxation, soothe muscles and promote healing. A Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center study showed a 50 percent reduction in the symptoms of fatigue, pain and anxiety in cancer patients when they received regular massage therapy treatments.

3.)   Aromatherapy – Aromatherapy is the use of pure essential oils from aromatic plants to promote physical and psychological wellbeing. Essential oils are extracted from various parts of the plant, such as the flowers, leaves, bark, wood, roots, seeds and peels. Early studies have shown that aromatherapy may improve the quality of life in patients with cancer. Patients may benefit from the therapy by inhaling the oils or by applying them topically to the skin. Here are some examples of the most helpful essential oils for cancer patients:

  • Ginger – decreases chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
  • Lavender – induces relaxation and decreases stress, anxiety and pain
  • Mandarin – decreases symptoms of depression
  • Sandalwood – helps with sleep in cases of insomnia

4.)   Mind-body practices – Meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), breathwork, guided imagery and Eastern movement practices such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong connect the body and mind by cultivating concentration, mindfulness and compassion. Mind-body practices are recommended for anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

5.)   Promotion of a healthy lifestyle – Good nutrition and regular exercise are the fundamentals of health, including disease prevention and meeting recovery goals. A diet rich in whole foods, vegetables and fruits is recommended. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1/3 of cancer deaths could be prevented with healthy nutrition and healthy weight.

Affinity Health System offers integrative medicine services in northeast Wisconsin through the Mary Kimball Anhaltzer Center for Integrative Medicine in Oshkosh and the Affinity Medical Group clinic in Greenville. These integrative approaches can help patients heal physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. For more information on any of the above recommendations, contact Affinity Integrative Medicine at (920) 223-7366.

About Corrine Rathbun


Corrine Rathbun, L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and licensed massage therapist who has been training in Chinese healing arts for 15 years as a tui na massage therapist, acupuncturist and Qigong teacher. She holds a Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine degree from the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine and trains in the Chen family style of Qigong and Taijiquan with Dr. Yang Yang, Center for Taiji Studies, New York, New York.

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