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“Tao, Wei-Wei, Hua Jiang, Xiao-Mei Tao, Ping Jiang, Li-Yan Sha, and Xian-Ce Sun. “Effects of acupuncture, tuina, tai chi, qigong, and traditional Chinese medicine five-element music therapy on symptom management and quality of life for cancer patients: a meta-analysis.” Journal of pain a…”
If you have breast cancer, think about how you’ll handle traditional treatment. The long list of unpleasant side effects can be treated with even more drugs, but thankfully, that isn’t your only option. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can supplement traditional medicine to help you naturally deal with the symptoms.
CAM is made of two parts, complementary medicine and alternative medicine. Depending on the treatment or how a person uses it, the medicine may supplement or replace another treatment.
CAM is also useful if you want to naturally relieve pain, side effects, and overall well-being. For some, it simply helps them cope better. However, not every CAM treatment is safe, so it’s important to know the details.[ref]Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Cancer Institute.[/ref]
Here are just a few examples of breast cancer CAM treatments that people may do.
1. Alkaline Diet
While cancer prevention depends on a healthy diet, so does management. In particular, alkaline foods are thought to create an anti-cancer environment in the body. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, roots, and nuts.
On the other hand, the modern Western diet is full of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, and processed cereal grains. These foods have an acidic effect, creating a cancer-friendly space.[ref]Cordain, Loren, S. Boyd Eaton, Anthony Sebastian, Neil Mann, Staffan Lindeberg, Bruce A. Watkins, James H. O’Keefe, and Janette Brand-Miller. “Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 81, no. 2 (2005): 341-354.[/ref]
That’s why some people choose to eat a strict alkaline diet instead of going through chemotherapy. In many cases, this involves doubling up on fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed products. Smoked, pickled, fatty, and salty foods should also be skipped.
2. Antioxidant Supplements
Antioxidants get a lot of attention for preventing cancer. As they fight free radicals, antioxidants protect healthy cells from DNA damage and destroy harmful molecules. In turn, a breast cancer patient may want to try and combat the disease with antioxidant supplements.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on the topic. In fact, some studies have found antioxidants only promotes tumor growth, leading to worse outcomes.[ref]Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention. National Cancer Institute.[/ref] Additionally, some supplements might aggravate the effect of traditional treatment or medicine. Instead, focus on natural sources like fruits and vegetables, and talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
3. Mind, Body, And Soul Therapies
Mind-body practices will ease the stress, anxiety, and pain that comes with breast cancer. These alternative therapies can significantly improve mental and emotional health, but certainly shouldn’t be used as treatment.
Examples include meditation, yoga, reiki, aromatherapy, art therapy, and music therapy. Some of these practices, such as reiki and art therapy, are most effective with a licensed expert. For instance, a 2016 study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that music therapy eases depression in cancer patients.[ref]Tao, Wei-Wei, Hua Jiang, Xiao-Mei Tao, Ping Jiang, Li-Yan Sha, and Xian-Ce Sun. “Effects of acupuncture, tuina, tai chi, qigong, and traditional Chinese medicine five-element music therapy on symptom management and quality of life for cancer patients: a meta-analysis.” Journal of pain and symptom management 51, no. 4 (2016): 728-747./ref] Another 2017 study discovered that aromatherapy can also reduce chemotherapy-induced pain.[ref]Jacobs, Shana S. “Integrative Therapy Use for Management of Side Effects and Toxicities Experienced by Pediatric Oncology Patients.” Children 1, no. 3 (2014): 424-440.[/ref]
As a traditional Chinese practice, acupuncture is a game changer for breast cancer patients. A practitioner will stimulate your nervous system by placing hair-thin needles into various areas. This may reduce many side effects like pain, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, and anxiety.[ref]Acupuncture. National Cancer Institute.[/ref]
In a 2017 study, researchers also found benefit for cancer-related fatigue, especially for those currently undergoing treatment.[ref] Zhang, Yan, Lu Lin, Huiling Li, Yan Hu, and Li Tian. “Effects of acupuncture on cancer-related fatigue: a meta-analysis.” Supportive Care in Cancer (2017): 1-11.[/ref] Yet, like mind-body practices, acupuncture should not be used an alternative treatment.
5. Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is an amazing, natural way to beat stress. For breast cancer patients, this can be especially beneficial. It’s a must for complementary medicine.
Better yet, the benefits go beyond mental and emotional health. According to a 2003 study, therapeutic massage can significantly improve pain in cancer patients. The effect was so strong that it even decreased the need for pain medication.[ref]Post-White, Janice, Mary Ellen Kinney, Kay Savik, Joanna Berntsen Gau, Carol Wilcox, and Irving Lerner. “Therapeutic massage and healing touch improve symptoms in cancer.” Integrative cancer therapies 2, no. 4 (2003): 332-344.[/ref]