Approximately one-third of cancer patients seek out complementary and alternative medicine. There are no proven cures for cancer in alternative medicine, but there are therapies that are proven to help with symptoms and side effects. I encourage people to use the best of both worlds — evidence-based treatments within conventional medicine as well as complementary medicine.
The complementary medicine treatments with the best evidence and fewest risks are the mind-body therapies and acupuncture. However, herbal medicines and vitamins should not be used without a physician’s guidance since they can interact with chemotherapy.
There are many types of mind-body therapies including yoga, tai chi, meditation, breathing exercises, guided imagery, relaxation training, prayer, music therapy and hypnosis. Many of these have been shown in clinical studies to help reduce stress and fatigue, improve the immune system, and help with sleep and mood. We offer many classes such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery and diaphragmatic breathing to help people explore these techniques. Read here for a list of fall classes that are offered through Affinity Health System.
Acupuncture can be especially helpful in counteracting the aftermath of chemotherapy and radiation. Symptoms like nausea, fatigue, pain, neuropathy, dry mouth and menopausal symptoms can respond very well to acupuncture. Often conventional medicines don’t help with those side effects, so acupuncture is a great tool to have. It’s also extremely safe, with very few resulting issues. Sometimes insurance will cover it; for example, Network Health Plan covers acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced nausea.
However patients choose to treat their cancer, they need to let all their health care providers know what type of treatment they are undergoing.