Minimizing Side Effects: Complementary Cancer Therapies
W When you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is natural to feel that you have little control over your health, and many patients are willing to try anything to rid their body of cancer. The Internet is full of information suggesting ways to help, many of which include false advertisements and unproven natural remedies, so-called “remedies” ranging from vitamins to smoothies. At best, these approaches do nothing to treat cancer; At worst, it could have severe unintended consequences.
“We often end up educating our patients about fact versus fiction. We work hard to explain that some treatments are not equivalent to conventional treatments when it comes to cancer treatment.” — Daniel Kellman, ND, FABNO — Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services at our hospital near Atlanta
What if I used natural remedies instead of the recommended ones?
Patients who opted for these types of so-called natural treatments to treat early-stage cancer, rather than opting for standard, recommended treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy, doubled their risk of a negative outcome, according to a study published earlier this year. In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute . Compared to those who received evidence-based medical treatments, breast cancer patients who used natural treatments fared the worst, followed by colon and lung cancer patients.
No scientific evidence has shown that nutritional therapy, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic care, or any other natural remedy has a medicinal effect in definitive cancer treatment or tumor shrinkage. On the other hand, these treatments, when used purposefully and responsibly, have a role in the cancer patient’s journey.
Research has shown, in fact, that such treatments can be key in helping cancer patients manage and treat the side effects of the disease, from pain and fatigue to stress, neuropathy and poor nutrition.
This is important because patients who are not feeling well, who are too weak or malnourished, for example, may be too sick to continue the treatment regimen, delaying or halting their fight against cancer. To help reduce or avoid these interruptions, an increasing number of oncologists are turning to a holistic approach to care. This approach involves using supportive care therapies to help cancer patients manage their side effects, while treating the disease with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, or other conventional methods.
What do supportive treatments do?
Supportive treatments include naturopathic medicine, nutritional therapy, mind-body medicine, spiritual support, acupuncture, pain management, cancer rehabilitation, and chiropractic care. “These approaches provide patients with ways to improve quality of life and reduce the side effects of conventional treatments that can be toxic,” Kellman says.
When patients are diagnosed with cancer, many do not realize how the disease and its treatment will affect how they feel and work. Other patients have heard of different side effects and now fear how it will affect them. “They link chemotherapy to hair loss, nausea, or other digestive issues,” Kellman says. One advantage of having a comprehensive care program is the ability to address a patient’s concerns. We can help by teaching them how to make food taste normal during treatment or how to keep their energy levels high. Having energy helps patients stay motivated, able to carry out normal activities of daily life, and being able to play with their children or something else so they don’t waste their lives.
According to published studies, an increasing number of cancer patients are choosing care plans that combine traditional cancer treatments with supportive care services designed to help manage and avoid side effects that affect quality of life during and after treatment.
“We’re looking at other things we can work on, like autoimmune issues, heart disease, or obesity,” Kellman says. “Those who embrace this model of holistic patient care often change their diet, lifestyle, what’s in their refrigerator, and food purchasing patterns. This new focus on a healthier life becomes part of a new mission for them: the pursuit of a healthy mind, body and spirit every day.”
Learn more about comprehensive cancer care.