If you have cancer or know someone who does, then you know that sometimes the treatment can be as disheartening as the disease. The effects of chemotherapy can reduce cancerous cells, but the side effects are nausea, loss of appetite, and hair loss, just to name a few. It’s no wonder that cancer victims look for alternative forms of treatment, and alternative medicine has come up with some options that are meant to be complimentary to the more “modern” forms of treatment. However, there appears to be no middle ground here; while the alternative medicine community is accused of overstating the validity of alternative medicine, the “conventional” treatment provider’s tend to understate the effects of alternative therapies for cancer sufferers.
While there is no cure for cancer, the NCCAM (National Center for complimentary and Alternative Medicine has conducted studies showing that acupuncture relieves the fatigue, nausea, and pain symptoms associated with both colon and breast cancer, as well as headaches and neck pain associated with surgery for brain tumors or throat cancer. Ginger is a good tasting treatment for the nausea and vomiting side effects of chemotherapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is currently being studied as a relief for larynx cancer patients. (Hyperbaric oxygen therapy consists of breathing oxygen which is at an atmospheric pressure greater than sea level. It is being studied to compliment radiation therapy.) Massage is used to relieve fatigue for all forms of cancer.
Another form of alternative therapy used for fighting the symptoms of cancer is coupling pancreatic enzymes with chemotherapy for the use in pancreatic cancer treatment. Pancreatic enzymes are proteins secreted from the pancreas that help in food digestion.
There is a distinction between complimentary medicine and alternative medicine. Complimentary medicine is used along with conventional medicine; whereas alternative is used instead of. Studies show that better long term results were achieved with complimentary medicine on advanced stages of cancer, while alternative medicine seemed to help early stage cancers. The study is called CAM, (complimentary alternative medicine) and statistics show that 36% of adults with various stages of cancer use both therapies. If you include megavitamin therapy in this statistic the numbers almost double to 62%. 79% out of almost 500 cancer patients use some form of complimentary or alternative therapy for cancer symptoms. Possibly the most beneficial part of CAM therapy is that patients can feel as if they are taking some form of control over their cancer, and that increases the quality of life and chances for survival. Bringing relief of pain and increasing hope for cancer patients is reason enough for these foundations to continue to receive grants and continue their studies.
If you are considering CAM therapy, there are some questions that you should ask the health provider before you begin treatment. One of the most important is will the treatment be covered under your health insurance and if so, are there any clauses you should know about? If the therapy is being sponsored as part of a clinical trial, find out who is sponsoring it so you will know if the trial is being conducted by an unbiased company with no marketing credits to be gained by the outcome. You’ll also want to ask if the therapy will interfere with any conventional treatment you might be receiving at the same time. Usually the answer is no-that’s the nature of alternative and complimentary medicine-but you should have all the information before agreeing to any type of treatment. Ask also if there will be any side effects, or if the documented benefits outweigh the risks, if any, involved.