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 show some supplements may increase cancer risk, such as lung cancer risk in smokers taking beta carotene and prostate cancer risk in men taking high doses of vitamin E.
No diet has been shown to slow, reverse, or cure cancer.
Also, experts don't recommend stopping standard treatment in place of complementary medicine, but many therapies can help people with cancer feel better.
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.
The FDA does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market. Talk to your doctor or expert on herbal remedies and research carefully 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.