Cancer Treatment through Complementary and Alternative Medicine

“The myriad claims and promises encompassed in the realm of complementary and alternative medicine can be daunting to a patient who has a serious medical problem. Helping patients to separate the wheat from the chaff means we must study various therapies with the scientific rigor we use to study any other medical treatment. In this manner, we can identify those therapies that truly help, those that do not help and those that cause harm.” – Brent Bauer, M.D., Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program

Alternative cancer treatment. What works? What doesn't? At Mayo Clinic, the researchers are trying to find out. Doctors, pathologists and other medical professionals there are currently studying:

  • acupuncture
  • aromatherapy
  • biofeedback
  • exercise
  • hypnosis
  • massage therapy
  • meditation
  • music therapy
  • relaxation techniques
  • tai chi
  • yoga

Acupuncture used against Cancer

Imagine pitting an ancient medical art from the East against a 20th-century auto-immune disease ravaging the West! This alternative health option is now an evidence-based standard for alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Oddly, acupuncture also effectively relieves pain.

Under the guidance of your primary physician, you may want to include acupuncture in your toolbelt as you work toward optimum health. acupuncture-treatment-legs-pain-alternative


When it comes to living with cancer, there's a good list and a bad list of nutritional choices.

Omega-3s; plant-based diet, particularly cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussel sprouts head the good list. Ginger, turmeric, garlic and onion all boast anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Then, there's green tea (5 or more cups per day).

The bad list: refined carbohydrates, red meat and dairy (which contains hormones), char-grilling and other high-heat methods, as they boost meat's carcinogenic compounds. Alcohol consumption can increase estrogen and is a risk factor for breast cancer; limit to a glass a week.

What about soy? Some research suggests anti-cancer effects may occur "only if you ate soy foods as a young girl." - Dr. Abrams, cancer researcher

Because of soy's phytoestrogens, "Women who have estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer should avoid it," cautions Dr. Abrams. If you do eat soy, choose whole forms like soybeans, tofu, and tempeh.

For the A to Z charts showing
health benefits of different therapies, follow this link.

Relaxation and Support

Stress increases the hormones epinephrine and cortisol—both of which impede the immune system. To help your body with stress...

“Any means works, as long as done regularly! Music, meditation, journaling, exercising, massage, yoga or guided imagery,” declares Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., director of Integrative Medicine Program, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Support groups improve insomnia, depression, anxiety and stress by women gaining sense of empowerment. Referring to female cancer patients, Alyson Moadel observes, "You may lose your hair, have hot flashes, sexual dysfunction, joint pains and fever. And you can be 25 and going through it."

Alyson Moadel, Ph.D., is director of the Psychosocial Oncology Program of Albert Einstein Cancer Center, New York City. It’s very important to know that you’re not alone, says Moadel, “to be able to put cancer in its place so it doesn’t overwhelm your life.”

Also, note the effects of belief: combined with breathing and meditation, spirituality reduces stress, and gives patients a means to deal with emotional challenges.


Exercise in the Fight against Cancer

Exercise boosts survival rate in those diagnosed with cancer if they walk at least three hours per week. Those who do aerobic exercise during radiation are less likely to develop low red blood cell counts.

Other exercise benefits for those undergoing traditional cancer treatment:

  • reduces fatigue
  • improves cardiovascular health
  • stabilizes weight (beneficial to recovery process)

Shoot for 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity on most days. For breast cancer patients--who are prone to bone metastases--include bone-building resistance exercises.

Supplements and Herbs

Beware! Some are contra-indicated with certain types of cancer...or by where you are in your treatment progress. Always work closely with an experienced practitioner.

With that said, ones to look into: Melatonin, alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin B12, Co-enzyme Q10 (may protect heart from radiation damage)mushroom extracts (turkey tail, reishi, maitake and shiitake); astragalus and turmeric.

End of page, but not of Story

As you can see, there are many healthy alternative solutions! Make the best use of your primary caregiver's knowledge as you continue in your search. I hope you find the answers for which you look.

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