Complementary Therapy Helps Cancer Patient’s Mind, Body

Methods help to treat the whole person, not just disease

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Contributor: Kenneth Weiss, MD, FACP

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Most cancer patients leave their medical treatment plan in the trusted hands of their oncologist. But many want to play an active role in regaining control of their own health and wellness. Complementary therapies allow patients to do that.

Complementary therapies are evidence-based, unlike alternative therapies, and integrated to treat the whole person — mind, body and spirit. This makes them unique in what they offer patients.

Quality of life

Patients find that certain complementary methods, combined with medical treatments, are useful to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

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Here are a few examples of complementary approaches to cancer treatment:

  • Aerobic exercise, such as swimming and walking, can reduce fatigue in patients receiving chemotherapy.
  • Dietary modifications are important in reducing inflammation. Avoid foods high in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, refined sugar and trans fat. Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and almonds, and monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and peanuts. Also make fruits, vegetables and whole grains a central part of your diet.
  • Meditation, guided imagery and biofeedback use the power of the mind to gain control of health and help with coping and reducing side effects of treatment. It’s important to consider this aspect of healing.
  • Yoga involves a program of posture and breathing activities to increase energy and decrease a disturbed sleep pattern.

When diagnosing and treating cancer, it’s important to treat the whole person. The focus should go beyond the disease itself and its effect on the body. This is where complementary therapies can play a role. They can lessen the impact of cancer on a person’s mind, spirit and emotional well-being.

More information

Cancer treatment guides

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