woman getting acupuncture
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Acupuncture

In this ancient practice, very thin needles, heat, or pressure are put on points of your body. Research shows it boosts your immune system and releases natural painkillers. It may also curb side effects of cancer treatment like nausea, pain, fatigue, and anxiety. 

But don’t skip doctor visits because you’re getting acupuncture. In fact, make sure your doctor knows you’re thinking about it before you try it. There can be side effects and in some cases, acupuncture isn’t recommended.

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woman getting back massage
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Massage

Some hospitals have massage therapists on staff. Massage can lessen pain. It can also help you relax before a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or breast reconstruction. After surgery, a specialized massage given by a specially trained therapist may help lessen swelling. Talk with your doctor about it. He may mention “lymph drainage techniques.” If so, that’s what he’s talking about.

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woman doing yoga
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Yoga

This form of exercise helps connect breath to movement. It slows your heart rate, blood pressure, and brain waves. Women who take yoga classes while having radiation for breast cancer say they feel less tired and stressed. If you can do it regularly, yoga may also lessen inflammation. Make sure to share your medical history with your instructor so she’ll know best how to help you.

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tai chi woman
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Tai Chi

This age-old Chinese martial art combines slow, graceful body movements with breathing and meditation. Relaxing the mind this way may help strengthen the body. Tai chi may lessen inflammation in people with breast cancer. Women who practice tai chi for an hour, 3 three times a week also feel better about their health and their lives.

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woman painting
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Art Therapy

You don't need to be a good artist to reap the benefits of art therapy. When you draw, paint, sculpt or craft, it gives you a chance to express fears and other feelings you may not want to talk about. Working with a trained art therapist can help you feel better about your treatment. It’s also been shown to ease anxiety and depression. It can also help your self-esteem.

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wig fitting
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Makeovers

Side effects like hair loss and skin problems hit many women hard. Some people in treatment don’t like to leave their house because they don’t like how they look. When you feel better about your appearance, it can improve your quality of life and help you stay strong. Find a program in your area that will fit you for a wig, give you a makeover, or give you a bra for your new shape. Some are free.

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woman with horse
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Equine-Assisted Therapy

Horses are natural therapists. And since they mirror the body language of people around them, horses can help you become more aware of your feelings. Learning to care for and ride a horse builds confidence. In one small study, people who participated in therapy with horses felt less stress. We’re not really sure why, but it could be worth a try.

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woman listening to music
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Music Therapy

Listening to your favorite tunes has probably helped you get over a breakup or power through a workout. This ability to connect you to your feelings is why music can also help during treatment. Studies show a program with a trained music therapist can drop pain levels, improve state of mind, and reduce worry for people with breast cancer. Ask your doctor to recommend one.

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woman writing
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Write About It

If you write down your feelings about breast cancer, from your hopes to your biggest fears, you may notice fewer physical symptoms. Writing in a journal can also boost your mood and help you see the progress you’re making. Don’t worry about spelling or handwriting. Just let go and focus on your thoughts and goals.

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support group
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Support Groups

No matter how much care you get from friends and family, a support group may also help. Time with other women who are going through the same thing can help you feel less alone. You may talk more about your problems since other group members know what you’re dealing with. You can also ask for advice, like what to expect during different stages of treatment or how to handle side effects.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/23/2016 Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein, MD on March 23, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

Getty Images

 

SOURCES:

National Cancer Institute: “Acupuncture – Patient Version.”

BreastCancer.org: “Acupuncture,” “Yoga,” “Journaling.”

Weidong, L. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America, August 2008.

Canadian Cancer Society: “Acupuncture.”

American Massage Therapy Association: “Massage Therapy Has a Role In Pain Management,” “Clinical Massage Research.”

American Cancer Society: “For Breast Cancer Survivors, Life Is Better with Yoga.”

Omega Institute for Holistic Studies: “Yoga & Breast Cancer: What the Research Shows.”

Irwin, M. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2014.

Mustian, K. Supportive Care in Cancer, December 2004.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Tai Chi,” “Art Therapy and Workshops.”

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: “Tai Chi: Healing from the Inside Out,” “Journaling Your Way Through Cancer.”

Inger, O., Palliative and Supportive Care, March 2006.

LookGoodFeelBetter.org: “The Untold Cost of Cancer,” “Non-Medical Aspect of Cancer Care Survey Results,” “Programs for Women.”

Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association: “Why Horses?”

Klontz, B. Society and Animals, April 7, 2007.

Cancer Center Treatments of America: “Music Therapy.”

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: “Benefits of Music Therapy & Therapeutic Music For Patients.”

Stanczyk, M. Reports of Practical Oncology and Radiotherapy, September-October 2011.

Ussher, J. Social Science and Medicine, 2006.

 

Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein, MD on March 23, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.