Understanding Cancer -- Diagnosis and Treatment
Mind/Body Medicine for Cancer
Some mind/body therapies improve quality of life for cancer patients through behavior modification; others encourage expression of emotions. Behavior therapies such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnotherapy, and biofeedback are used to alleviate pain, nausea, vomiting, and the anxiety that may occur in anticipation of, or after, cancer treatment. Individual or group counseling allows patients to confront problems and emotions caused by cancer and receive support from fellow patients in a group setting. Patients who pursue these types of therapies tend to feel less lonely, less anxious about the future, and more optimistic about recovery.
Nutrition, Diet, and Cancer
Scientific evidence suggests that nutrition may play a role in cancer prevention. Observational studies have shown that cancer is more common in some people with certain dietary habits -- such as colorectal cancer in people who have diets rich in meat products. So far, data has not supported the use of any vitamins or supplements to decrease the risk of cancer. In fact, studies on beta carotene and vitamin E, have shown that they actually increase cancer risk.
As a rule, patients should avoid any diet that claims to cure cancer, that advocates abandoning standard treatment, causes severe weight loss or weakness, requires severe food restriction, or costs a lot of money.
Keep in mind that there are no diets that slow, reverse, or cure cancer.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure are examples of "complementary" medicine for cancer. While neither claims to cure the disease, some evidence shows that they help reduce symptoms and side effects of the illness and its treatment.
Herbs to Fight Cancer
Numerous herbal remedies profess to fight cancer and its related symptoms; unfortunately, little solid evidence exists to prove their effectiveness. A few herbs may help with specific complaints: Ginger tea and peppermint tea or lozenges may ameliorate nausea, valerian root can help with anxiety and stress, capsicum cream might relieve muscle aches.
Be warned that herbal medications are not regulated. Therefore, any claims made supporting their use for any disease have usually not been scientifically supported. Consult your doctor, research carefully, and confer with an expert on herbal remedies, because some of these herbs may affect your other methods of treatment.
Homeopathy and Cancer
Homeopathic preparations may ease the nausea, fatigue, and anxiety associated with cancer and its treatment. Homeopathy can present a danger if its use delays or replaces conventional treatment.
Social Support and Spirituality
Having the support of friends and family can help you deal with the depression, fear, and anxiety that accompany cancer. In some cases, a strong support network can even affect the length of survival of cancer patients; studies have shown that men who experience limited social contact have a shorter survival time, while women with good social support survive longer from their cancers.
Prayer can relieve stress, create a sense of meaning and purpose, and provide solace. Being an actively spiritual person may have even more benefits; cancer patients who consider themselves spiritual suffer less anxiety and depression, and even less pain, from their cancer.