Alternative medicine is the term for medical products and practices that are not considered to fall within the spectrum of conventional medical care and have often not been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as pharmaceutical-based treatment. Some of these treatments, however, have been around for thousands of years and have been increasingly accepted in the medical community as useful, including for the alleviation of pain and suffering associated with cancer.
While alternative treatments have not been as well studied in the laboratory or in clinical trials, many patients have reported positive results from using them, either as a substitute for conventional treatments or as a supplement. Using alternatives in conjunction with such standard treatments as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery is known as “complementary” or “integrative” medicine. In response to the perception of alternative treatments as valid and potentially important, many hospitals have created integrative medicine programs in recent years.
Because alternative medicine is less well understood and regulated than conventional treatments, it is critical that you receive these treatments from qualified practitioners. Contact Us to learn more about your treatment options.
A Warning: Some cancer treatments that might be lumped into the alternative category have been discredited and should be avoided. These would include urine therapy and Laetrile, a substance extracted from apricot pits that was the subject of controversy in the 1960s and was banned in the U.S. but is still offered in Mexican cancer clinics. Unethical practitioners try and capitalize on the desperation of late-stage cancer patients to sell “cures” that have no chance of working, and the Internet is full of “testimonials” about all kinds of unconventional cancer treatments. While most of these treatments are in fact harmless, patients should be very careful not to rely exclusively on any treatment that does not have significant evidence of its effectiveness.
Acupuncture, developed in China centuries ago, has evolved over time and is used to treat cancer and other illnesses. Acupuncture involves the insertion and manipulation of solid, generally thin needles at various points in the body. Acupuncture has been shown to relieve nausea, pain and other symptoms associated with chemotherapy.
Meditation (Mind-Body) Healing
Healing methods that include meditation, yoga, massage, biofeedback and hypnosis are examples of treatments based on the premise that the mind can affect the body’s response to disease. These methods may help reduce side effects from cancer treatments and improve physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being through relaxation.
The importance of nutrition and a healthy diet and in treating and preventing all types of illness has become a focal point for research in recent years, though the biological mechanisms that are in play are not fully understood. Special diets or supplements are sometimes used in the treatment of people with cancer. Studies have found that Vitamin A, for example, may lead to a decrease in the spread of mesothelioma cells. Good nutrition is especially important for people with cancer, in part because a common symptom of the disease is a loss of appetite, and the body requires the full complement of nutrients to fight it.
Botanical and Biologic Treatments
Botanical and biologic treatments, sometimes known as herbal therapy, is another popular and well-established alternative treatment. Herbal therapies may use individual or multiple plants or plant extracts; the body breaks down the herbs into chemical compounds that can have beneficial effects. While herbal therapies have not been nearly as well studied as synthesized drugs, many pharmaceuticals are in fact derived from plants or plant compounds; more than 60 percent of current chemotherapy drugs, for example, were developed from plants. Like pharmaceuticals, herbal treatments can also have serious side effects if not used properly.
While some states have mandated that health insurers cover acupuncture treatments, most alternatives are not typically covered by insurance policies. This may change as alternative treatments continue to become more widely accepted, but patients must weigh the cost of these treatments in the context of their overall options. The Mesothelioma Options Help Center can help maximize your financial leverage to ensure you have access to all potentially beneficial treatments.