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Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care

This information is not designed to replace conventional cancer treatment, but to complement it. Always consult a professional complementary therapist before embarking on adjacent treatment. Also inform your consultant, GP or oncologist.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a system of healing which has been practiced in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years. Although often described as a means of pain relief, it is also used to treat a wide range of illnesses with the focus on improving the overall wellbeing of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms.

Adjunctive therapies: Adjunctive therapies are used in conjunction with others including:

  • Detoxification, the removal of toxins from the body. A variety of approaches are used, including colon cleansing, fasting, chelation, water therapy, heat therapy, and nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic methods. Increasing your water intake may be one of the best ways to get rid of toxins in the body.
  • Nutritional therapy: Two approaches are emerging. One is a specialized combination of nutrients used as a targeted cancer therapy, depending on the individual needs of the patient. The other, which also depends on the needs of the patient, is a more general approach seeking to boost health and strength.
  • Counselling. Counselling and support groups make up an important aspect of therapy in the world’s most successful cancer treatment centres. Music, meditation, relaxation techniques, and stress reduction have proven to significantly enhance the power of the immune system.

Antioxidants: Cancer begins in the cell. Toxins, alcohol, smoke, free radicals, and the aging process bring about cellular changes. Antioxidants help turn these free radicals and their precursors (the toxins) into harmless chemicals. Vitamins C, D, A, E, and selenium are antioxidants.

Aromatherapy massage – Modem aromatherapy began in Germany in the 16th century. There are about 300 essential oils in general use today by professional aromatherapists. Essential oils are extracted from varieties of shrubs, trees, herbs, grasses and flowers. Gentle massage using essential oils helps cancer patients to relax, which often eases their physical pain. The reasons for this are in part due to the release of certain mood-enhancing neuro-chemicals in the brain and body. One of these neuro-chemicals, noradrenalin is triggered by stimulating oils e.g. rosemary, and another, serotonin is triggered by sedative oils e.g. camomile. Others, the endorphins and enkephalins are partly what make us feel good after a treatment.

Homeopathy is the introduction of small amounts of medicine into the body, a medicine chosen to be similar in nature to the problem the patient is having. Proven to be a popular and inexpensive treatment worldwide, it causes a “vaccination-like” response in the body.

Mind/body approaches: Guided imagery or visualisation, relaxation training and mediation can focus the mind with positive images and thoughts and so affect the body’s healing potential.

Reflexology – Reflexology is an ancient, holistic healing method involving the use of pressure and massage on reflex points found on the feet. Vital energy or life force, known as Chi in Chinese, Ki in Japanese or Prana in Sanskrit, flows between the body organs. Freely flowing energy promotes good physical and mental health. When the energy is blocked, the corresponding parts of the body are affected. The objective of a reflexology treatment is to unblock and free the passage of energy throughout the body. Reflexology can be used with cancer patients to help relax, promote recovery following surgery and relieve side effects of cancer treatments.

Reiki – Reiki is thought to have originated thousands of years ago in Tibet and was rediscovered by Dr Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist monk in the 1800′s. This system of natural healing, with roots in ancient Tendai/Shingon Buddhist and Tibetan Sanskrit healing practices, is increasingly becoming an established complementary therapy, working hand-in-hand with conventional Western medical practice. Reiki can be used with cancer patients to help relax, comfort and reassure.