In Western medicine, cancer treatment is almost unequivocally associated with clinical modalities like surgery and chemotherapy. Holistic options are often the afterthought – the “alternative” choice. But could holistic medicine viably play a larger role in helping these patients?
Almost 95 percent of all National Cancer Institute-sponsored integrative medicine programs are interested in learning how to more effectively utilize complementary and alternative medicine research grants. Around 85 percent of clinical cancer programs said the same.
Clearly, there’s potential in these therapies.
Since early civilization, medical practitioners have relied on herbal remedies, energy therapies and mind-body regimens to restore patients to health. And while modern medicine has provided us with some potent, targeted therapies, many practitioners still embrace the classical approaches.
The demand is there – and has increased significantly in recent years. In the 1970s, approximately 25 percent of cancer patients turned to CAM. After 2000, that number jumped to 49 percent. American patients had the highest use (as compared to patients from Australia, Canada, Europe and New Zealand).
How Do Holistic Cancer Therapies Work?
For every cancer patient that embraces a holistic approach, though, there’s another who can’t fathom how it works. And while they do work, holistic therapies work in a much different way than traditional medicine.
With an emphasis on naturally restoring the body to a healthy balance, these therapies don’t directly attack tumors. Their primary goal isn’t to prevent normal cells from becoming cancerous or stop cancerous cells from metastasizing. Some natural medicines have generated these results in laboratory tests, but that’s not the focus. Hence, they do not treat the cancer specifically, but they rather seek to balance the immune system and body’s innate function to restore itself back to balance. The focus is whole-body healing.
In many cases, holistic methods are just as effective as Western medicine at alleviating cancer-induced complications, like pain, fatigue and anxiety. When used as a complement to traditional treatment, many patients have found relief from side effects like nausea and digestive distress. And as part of a total health care experience, these therapies offer patients the same core thing that Western therapies offer: the chance to feel better.
Author bio: Faith Franz has spent nearly two years researching and writing for The Mesothelioma Center. As an advocate for alternative medicine, she encourages patients to explore all of the treatment options that could potentially save their life.
Mikhail, I., Austin, E., Buckman, S., Lee, C., Goodman, N., & White, J. (2012). Cancer complementary and alternative medicine research among NCI’s cancer centers program and the integrative medicine programs: an inventory. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine; 12 (Supplement 1). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3373353/
Horneber, M., Bueschel, G. Dennery, G., Les, D., Ritter, E., & Zwahlen, M. (2011). How many cancer patients use complementary and alternative medicine: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Cancer Therapies; 11 (3). Retrieved from http://ict.sagepub.com/content/11/3/187.short