Many mesothelioma patients have found pain and symptom relief in alternative treatments that supplement conventional and emerging therapies. These types of therapy are commonly called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Alternative treatments will not cure mesothelioma on their own, but they may be able to alleviate discomfort and reduce suffering, especially in late-stage disease. According to a 2016 study by Columbia University researchers, nearly 80% of cancer survivors use some sort of alternative therapy during the course of their treatment and recovery.
When considering alternative mesothelioma treatments, it is important to consult with a mesothelioma specialist to make sure that these techniques will not interfere with the primary treatment plan. Many mesothelioma doctors are understanding and recognize that different techniques will work for different people. Additionally, many cancer centers are starting to offer “integrative” services that include both conventional therapies and selected alternative treatment options.
Alternative treatments that may benefit individuals who suffer from asbestos cancer include:
Acupuncture is often used as a palliative therapy, involving the insertion of very narrow needles into the skin at specific pressure points. This has been proven to relieve pain in many individuals suffering from a wide variety of ailments, including mesothelioma.
This method of therapy involves the use of aromatic oils, plants, and other substances to be used in conjunction with massages and or baths. These fragrances may result in a heightened mood, which can promote good health and pain relief.
Biofeedback, also known as mind-body therapy, can help individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma manage the pain that is often associated with the disease.
Chiropractic care is an alternative therapy used to help mesothelioma cancer patients manage pain while going through conventional treatments such as chemotherapy.
Craniosacral therapy, a process of light touches on the bones of the skull, spine, and pelvis, is an alternative treatment aimed at releasing tension and improving body movement. This type of therapy can help manage pain and the side effects of more conventional treatments for mesothelioma.
The Chinese practice of feng shui recommends making changes to a cancer patient’s environment to enhance the flow of qi. This complementary therapy can support mesothelioma cancer patients throughout their mesothelioma treatment.
Healing touch therapy is an emerging therapy that is becoming more widely used by patients battling cancers like mesothelioma. This therapy invokes the relaxation response in patients and can help lessen the negative side effects associated with conventional cancer treatments.
Health coaching can help mesothelioma patients to enjoy a better quality of life, lessen pain and stress, and make important lifestyle changes that can help speed up recovery from their cancer treatment.
Many natural herbs have medicinal aspects which have been used to treat seemingly incurable ailments. Many times, nutritional supplements work in conjunction with herbal remedies to provide the body with the necessary vitamins and minerals to fight off infection and other illness.
Many cancer patients, including those battling malignant mesothelioma, have turned to homeopathy because it is a natural alternative to aggressive conventional cancer treatment drugs and can help manage the adverse side effects associated with such drugs.
Guided hypnosis sessions can have a substantially positive effect on a patient undergoing treatment for cancer, including mesothelioma. Hypnosis is increasingly being integrated into alternative cancer treatment regimens for this reason.
Light therapy is a complementary therapy that some cancer patients find helpful to throughout the course of their conventional treatment to help reduce pain, stress and anxiety.
Manual lymph drainage therapy is a technique that uses very gentle manipulation to help reduce swelling in the body after surgery or radiation treatment in mesothelioma cancer patients.
Massage therapy is the practice of hands-on physical manipulation of the body's soft tissue. Massage can be both relaxing and pain-relieving. Massage methods include Acupressure, Anma, and Balinese, all of which have differing effects on the body. Massage is often used during treatments for certain health conditions, like cancer, to ease muscle tension and induce relaxation.
Meditation is the process of moving into deep relaxation. It is therapeutic in the sense that it can help patients develop a calm mind to make sound decisions and be at peace with health conditions they may have, including cancer like mesothelioma.
Music therapy is a complementary therapy than can help alleviate the uncomfortable side effects of cancer treatment as well as help reduce both chronic and acute pain.
Naturopathy is an alternative paradigm of medicine that focuses on nature's remedy and the body's intrinsic ability to heal itself. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach to treating illnesses like mesothelioma through the use of mineral, diet, and lifestyle-based remedies.
Proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle can prove to be an important factor in the treatment of someone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Osteopathic medicine is a complementary therapy that mesothelioma cancer patients find helpful for reducing stress, fatigue and some of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy.
Personal Fitness and Training
Maintaining some level of movement can be a tremendous help to cancer patients undergoing treatment and can lead to improved outlook and quality of life. There are personal fitness trainers that are specifically trained to provide this type of support to cancer patients.
Pet Therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, utilizes dogs and other animals as a soothing and relaxing modality for patients battling mesothelioma and other cancer.
Foot reflexology is an alternative treatment therapy designed to help mesothelioma cancer patients manage pain.
Reiki promotes a deep sense of relaxation and well-being and is an alternative therapy that many mesothelioma cancer patients are now using as part of their overall treatment plan.
Some cancer patients welcome the use of more non-invasive therapies, like sound therapy, that can help alleviate the stress and pain that is often associated with more traditional forms of cancer treatment.
Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation is used as a palliative care option. An electrical stimulation is directed through different areas of the body resulting in pain relief which can increase the level of endorphins. TENS Therapy is typically administered by a physical therapist, but can also be done at home if a patient has the necessary documentation for TENS equipment.
Yoga is a combination of meditation and movement. Yoga is of Hindu origin and is designed to promote a heightened sense of oneness between body and mind, inducing relaxation and contentment.
Do Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments Really Work?
When it comes to cancer, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every person reacts differently to treatments of every type, including conventional therapies like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, or emerging treatments like immunotherapy and gene therapy.
The same is true with alternative treatments. Some people have found mental and physical relief in body-based therapies such as physical training or massage, while others have eased their emotional or physiological discomfort through mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or yoga. What works for one person is not guaranteed to work for another.
The most important factor when considering any form of alternative treatment is to make sure that it will not interfere with your primary treatment. Always consult your doctor to make sure you are physically and medically capable of undergoing alternative treatments. This is especially important if you want to take any dietary supplements, natural remedies, or homeopathic or osteopathic medications. Some supplements and medicines can interfere with chemotherapy or symptom-related prescriptions you may be taking, and your doctor will be able to give you the appropriate guidance.Sources
John GM, Hershman DL, Falci L, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine use among US cancer survivors. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. October 2016;10(5):850-864. doi: 10.1007/s11764-016-0530-y
National Cancer Institute. Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Cancer.gov. Updated April 10, 2015.
Sprod LK. Considerations for Training Cancer Survivors. Strength & Conditioning Journal. February 2009;31(1):39-47. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e318195a259