Mind-Body Medicine for Cancer
Using mind-body techniques can enhance your quality of life, lessen pain, and may extend your longevity, say proponents.
Treating the Effects of Chemo continued...
Examples of mind-body medicine that Katherine Puckett
recommends to cancer patients include deep breathing, progressive muscle
relaxation, guided imagery or visualization, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and
even listening to music or enjoying nature.
"When you have cancer, or when a loved one has cancer, you
have a lost sense of control," Puckett says. "By doing whatever you can
to take care of yourself, you're gaining back some control." Many mind-body
techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization, and meditation, can be done
by individuals on their own. "When you have the tools to do some of these
things by yourself, it's very empowering," says Puckett.
Using mind-body techniques does not necessarily mean having to
be "positive" all the time, Puckett say. "It's important to make
room for all the feelings you're having. It's important to cry as well as to
Encouraging the Practice
Other conventional medical institutions also see the value of
mind-body medicine for their cancer patients and are offering it as an adjunct
to conventional cancer therapies. Five years ago, Jupiter Medical Center in
Jupiter, Fla., opened its Mind-Body Institute. According to medical director
Mark Gocke, MD, the hospital wanted to provide complementary care in a hospital
setting to patients who wanted to use such therapies in conjunction with
conventional care. Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, and even
those recovering from surgery, can take advantage of various complementary
options such as acupuncture (recommended by the National Institutes of Health
as a safe and often effective treatment for chemo-related nausea), music
therapy, nutritional classes, massage, stress reduction, hypnotherapy and
psychotherapy, Reiki, acupressure, and deep-tissue massage.
"You don't want to ignore any modality that can help,
whether conventional or complementary," says Gocke. But, he cautions,
complementary therapies are not a replacement for conventional treatment.
"If stress-reduction techniques allow you to tolerate chemotherapy better,
you're enhancing that treatment. Even if it's just a fraction, that's better
than nothing at all."
At the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, staff members, as
well as cancer patients and their families, are encouraged to take advantage of
mind-body therapies. "The staff faces tremendous challenges," says John
D. Wynn, MD, medical director for psycho-oncology at Swedish and clinical
assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"The more we can support our staff, the more we can inspire our