Complementary Therapies for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on April 26, 2023
3 min read

When you're getting treatment for mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), it's natural to want to do everything you can to feel better. You may have fatigue, nausea, and other side effects from your treatments. One way to help manage them is with complementary therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, or massage.

Complementary medicine doesn't replace chemotherapy and other standard mantle cell lymphoma treatments. It complements, or works alongside them. Complementary therapies don't cure cancer, but they might help you feel better and more in control during your cancer treatment.

In recent years, complementary medicine has become more mainstream. Many cancer centers now offer therapies like these to their patients.

Cancer can add a lot of stress to your life. Meditation focuses and calms your mind to ease stress and relax you. It might also improve your mood and help you sleep better.

Meditation takes only a few minutes a day, and it's easy to do. Just sit in a quiet place and breathe deeply. You can focus on the feeling of your breath moving in and out, repeat a word or phrase, or gaze at a candle or other object. When upsetting thoughts enter your mind, let them float away.

If you're new to meditation, try a meditation app or CD to guide you through the practice.

Yoga takes meditation a step further. It adds gentle movements and poses to deep breathing.

Regular yoga practice can help ease anxiety and depression, and improve sleep in people with breast cancer. There isn't as much evidence to show that yoga helps people with lymphoma, but it looks promising.

Start slowly if you're new to yoga. Have a yoga teacher show you how to do the poses correctly. Don't move into any pose that causes pain.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. A practitioner puts thin needles into specific parts of your body.  

Acupuncture might help with problems like:

  • Tiredness
  • Numbness/tingling from chemotherapy
  • Sleep 
  • Anxiety and stress

Getting acupuncture is almost painless. The needles are very thin, and the practitioner puts them into your body in a way that doesn't set off pain receptors in your skin.

Acupuncture is safe in general, but check with your doctor before you try it. Mantle cell lymphoma can lower your platelet or white blood cell count, which could raise your risk for bleeding or infection from the needles.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils made from plant flowers, seeds, and leaves. You breathe in these oils or massage them into your skin. Some people use aromatherapy to relieve stress, anxiety, and other symptoms of cancer and its treatments.

Each type of oil helps in a different way: lavender with anxiety and sleep, sweet marjoram with pain, and ginger oil with nausea. An aromatherapist can help you find the oil that works best for your symptoms.

Essential oils are generally safe, but don't use more than the bottle recommends. And if you plan to massage them into your skin, try out the oil on a small area of skin first to check for an allergic reaction.

If you've ever had a massage, you know how good it can make you feel. Not only does massage therapy relax tight, sore muscles, but it has a calming effect overall.

Massage also improves blood flow and helps activate the lymphatic system that carries infection-fighting white blood cells around your body.

Massage might help you feel better by easing symptoms like:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Poor sleep

Massage is safe, but check with your doctor first if you have a low platelet count. You could bruise more easily, and you may need a gentler touch.

Some people take nutritional supplements to slow their cancer or to manage side effects from their treatment. These products don't cure or treat cancer, and they can be risky.

The FDA doesn't regulate supplements the way it does medicines. And the label may not tell you exactly what's in the bottle.

Some supplements interact with cancer drugs. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can protect cancer cells and make it easier for them to grow.

The best way to get the nutrients you need is from a balanced diet. If you can't eat well because cancer treatments have reduced your appetite, ask your doctor if you need a supplement.