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An Alternative For Cancer Treatment

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An Alternative For Cancer Treatment

Alternative cancer treatments cannot cure your cancer, but they can provide some relief from the signs and symptoms.
Written by Mayo Clinic staff
Many people with cancer are interested in trying any method that can help them, including complementary and alternative cancer treatments. If cancer makes you feel like you have little control over your health, alternative cancer treatments can give you a sense of control. However, the effectiveness of many alternative treatments is unproven, and some can be dangerous.
To help you differentiate between good and bad options, we've listed ten alternative cancer treatments that are generally safe. Also, there is increasing evidence that these ten treatments can provide certain benefits.

How can alternative medicine help people with cancer?

Alternative cancer treatments may not play a direct role in curing cancer, but they can help you cope with the signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Common signs and symptoms, such as anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress, may decrease with alternative treatments.

Integrating the best evidence-based complementary and alternative cancer treatments with the treatments you receive from your doctor can help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment. Discuss all of your options with your doctor so that together they can determine which strategies might work for you and which are likely to be of no a benefit to you.

Work closely with your doctor to determine the right balance between traditional medicine and alternative cancer treatments. Although complementary and alternative cancer treatments, such as acupuncture, can reduce nausea or pain, they are generally not powerful enough to replace the cancer medications your doctor will give you.

If you are experimenting: Then consider trying:

Anxiety: Hypnosis, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques

Fatigue: Exercise, massage, relaxation techniques, yoga

Nausea and vomiting: Acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnosis, music therapy

Pain: Acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnosis, massage, music therapy

Sleeping problems: Exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga

Stress: Aromatherapy, exercise, hypnosis, massage, meditation, tai chi, yoga

What are alternative cancer treatments worth trying?

These 10 alternative cancer treatments have been shown to help people with cancer. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in trying them:

Acupuncture. During an acupuncture treatment, a professional will insert small needles into your skin at precise points. Studies show that acupuncture can be helpful in relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy. Acupuncture can also help alleviate certain types of pain in people with cancer.

Acupuncture is safe if performed by a professional, using sterile needles. Ask your doctor for the names of trusted professionals. Acupuncture is not safe if you are taking blood thinners or have a low blood count, so you should check with your doctor first.

Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses scented oils to create a feeling of calm. The oils, impregnated with aromas such as lavender, can be applied to your skin during a massage or added to the water with which you bathe. Additionally, scented oils can be heated to release their scents into the air. Aromatherapy can be helpful in relieving nausea, pain, and stress.

Aromatherapy can be done by a professional or on your own. Aromatherapy is safe, despite the fact that the oils applied to your skin can cause allergic reactions. People with cancer who are sensitive to estrogen, like some who have breast cancer, should avoid applying large amounts of lavender oil and tea tree oil to their skin.

Exercise. Exercise can help you control the signs and symptoms during and after cancer treatment. Light exercise can help you relieve fatigue and tension, as well as sleep better. Today, many studies show that an exercise program can help you live longer with cancer and improve your quality of life.

If you have not yet exercised regularly, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Start small, add more exercise as time goes on. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.

Hypnosis Hypnosis is a deep state of concentration. During a hypnotherapy session, a therapist can hypnotize you by speaking in a friendly voice, which helps you relax. Then the therapist will help you focus on goals, such as managing your pain and reducing your tension.

Hypnosis can be helpful for people with cancer who experience anxiety, pain, and stress. Also, it can help prevent anticipatory nausea and vomiting that can occur if chemotherapy has made you vomit in the past. Hypnosis is safe when performed by a certified therapist. However, tell your therapist if you have a history of mental illness.

Massage During a massage, the professional kneads your skin, muscles, and tendons in an effort to relieve muscle tension, stress, and stimulates relaxation. There are different methods of massage. The massage can be light and smooth or it can be deep with more pressure.

Studies have found that massage can help ease pain in people with cancer. In addition, it also helps alleviate anxiety, fatigue, and tension.

Massage can be safe if you work with a well-trained massage therapist. Many cancer centers have massage therapists or your doctor may refer you to a massage therapist who regularly works with people with cancer.

Don't go for a massage if you have a low blood count. Ask your therapist to avoid massaging near your surgical scars, radiation treatment areas, or tumors. If you have bone cancer or other bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, ask your therapist to apply little pressure, rather than deep massage.

Meditation. Meditation is a deep state of concentration when you focus your mind on an image, sound, or idea, like a positive thought. When you are meditating, you can also do deep breaths or relaxation exercises. Meditation can help people with cancer by relieving anxiety and stress.

Meditation is generally safe. You can meditate yourself for a few minutes, once or twice a day, or you can take classes with an instructor.

Music therapy. During music therapy sessions, you can listen to music, play instruments, sing or write songs. A trained music therapist can guide you through activities designed to meet your specific needs, or you can participate in music therapy in a group setting. Music therapy can help you relieve pain and control nausea and vomiting.

Music therapy is safe and you don't need to have any musical talent to participate. Many medical centers have certified music therapists.

relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques are ways to focus your attention on calming your mind and relaxing your muscles. Relaxation techniques may include activities such as visualization exercises or progressive relaxation of the muscles.

Relaxation techniques can be helpful in relieving fatigue and anxiety. They can also help people with cancer to sleep better.

Relaxation techniques are safe. Usually, a therapist guides you through these exercises and eventually you can do them alone or with the help of guided relaxation videos.

Tai Chi Tai chi is a form of exercise that incorporates smooth movements and deep breathing. Tai chi can be taught by the instructor or you can learn it on your own with the help of books and videos. Practicing tai chi can help release tension.

Tai chi is generally safe. The slow movements of tai chi do not require much physical strength and the exercises can be easily adapted to your own abilities. Still, talk to your doctor before you start tai chi. Don't do any tai chi movement that causes you pain.

Yoga. Yoga combines stretching with deep breaths. During a yoga session, you place your body in different positions that require bending, twisting, and stretching. There are many types of yoga, each with its own variations.

Yoga can provide some stress relief for people with cancer. Additionally, yoga has been shown to improve sleep and reduce fatigue.

Before starting a yoga class, ask your doctor to recommend an instructor who works regularly with people with health problems, such as cancer. Avoid yoga positions that cause pain. A good instructor can give you alternative positions that are safe for you.

You will notice that some alternative treatments work well together. For example, taking a deep breath while receiving a massage can help you release more tension. 

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