01. Understanding Alternative Therapies
What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
Complementary and alternative treatments may be helpful options for mesothelioma cancer patients. These supplemental therapies are not considered replacements for conventional cancer treatment. Still, they may offer patients some added relief when combined with standard treatments.
Patients considering Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) should discuss options with their doctor.
- Alternative medicine is used instead of traditional medical practices. Alternative therapy methods may not be available through conventional means. Evidence does not show alternative medicine alone can cure cancers such as mesothelioma. Because of the lack of evidence, various agencies such as the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation do not recommend the use of alternative medicine in place of conventional therapies.
- Complementary medicine is used in combination with traditional treatment. Evidence shows this combination may offer some added benefits.
CAM therapies are not proven to cure or treat cancer. The primary benefit is improved patient comfort. Patients may choose to incorporate these therapies into their conventional treatment plan. Doing so may offer some patients relief from mesothelioma symptoms and standard treatment side effects.
Understanding Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine is the combination of conventional treatment methods with complementary therapies. Integrative medicine involves specific therapy combinations under medical supervision. Scientific evidence supports the safety and efficacy of CAM therapies used in integrative medicine.
Some mesothelioma doctors may use an integrative approach to patient care. This holistic approach focuses on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of health. These methods may also help improve symptoms and side effects of conventional treatment. Mesothelioma patients should speak with their doctor if interested in integrative medicine.
02. Alternative Treatment Effectiveness
Do Alternative Cancer Treatments Work?
Patients should establish a mesothelioma treatment plan with their medical team. This is especially important if patients consider adding complementary and alternative medicine. Some CAM treatments still lack clear, scientific evidence of safety and/or efficacy. Other CAM therapies can be harmful or interfere with conventional cancer treatments.
Alternative techniques are commonly used to support traditional cancer treatment. Common traditional treatment methods for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The effects of adding alternative methods may vary due to individual factors, such as the patient’s current treatment plan.
For mesothelioma patients, alternative treatments may offer palliative care benefits. This means they may help patients relieve side effects and improve quality of life.
Patients should seek help from healthcare professionals to understand their different treatment options. These options may include conventional treatments, alternative treatments, experimental treatments and/or clinical trials.
Can Alternative Treatments Improve Mesothelioma Survival?
No conclusive evidence shows alternative therapies improve mesothelioma survival. One article reported promising survival with a combo of alternative and traditional treatments. The patient lived at least 32 months with pleural mesothelioma. They received three types of treatment:
- Chemotherapy: Pemetrexed and cisplatin
- Alternative therapy: Supplements and herbal medicine
- Radiation: Targeted to a lymph node tumor
Mesothelioma patients may similarly benefit from combining complementary and conventional therapies. However, there is not enough medical evidence to say this approach reliably improves survival. Still, complementary therapies may help ease mesothelioma symptoms and treatment side effects.
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03. Nutritional Therapies
Nutritional Therapies & Herbal Medicine for Cancer
Some nutritional approaches can support a patient’s cancer treatment journey. For instance, dietitians may recommend adding herbs and dietary supplements to a mesothelioma cancer diet plan. Mesothelioma patients should speak to their doctor before making any changes to their diet. Not all supplements or foods may be appropriate for every treatment plan.
Interested patients should seek help from a registered dietitian or nutritionist. These nutrition professionals can help ensure nutritional needs are being met.
Nutrition and Cancer Treatment
Like many cancer patients, mesothelioma patients may experience a variety of nutritional challenges. For instance, mesothelioma patients may experience various treatment side effects, such as nausea and loss of appetite. Proper nutrition during and after treatment can help patients manage side effects and improve quality of life.
A dietitian can recommend the best foods for mesothelioma patients to eat based on their needs. For instance, they may recommend protein-rich foods to help patients maintain strength and body weight.
In general, nutrient-dense diets may help improve mesothelioma patients’ well-being. As with all treatments, patients should discuss nutrition with their medical care team.
Beta-glucans are nutrients that may stimulate the immune system to help fight diseases, such as mesothelioma. Beta-glucans are a type of sugar molecule found in living organisms like mushrooms, grains and yeasts. Research suggests they may have the potential to help cancer patients with certain aspects of treatment.
Potential beta-glucan benefits include reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, improving blood cell counts and improving overall quality of life. However, as a dietary supplement, beta-glucans are not FDA regulated or approved to treat or cure any disease. Patients interested in the potential health benefits of beta-glucans should speak with their doctor.
Herbs for Mesothelioma
Herbal medicine is an alternative treatment mesothelioma patients may choose to incorporate in their plan. Common herbal remedies include astragalus, ginger root and turmeric. Depending on individuals’ needs, they may use herbs internally or externally. Herbal medicine can be delivered in compresses, teas and tinctures. Potential positive effects may include relief from treatment-related side effects.
Herbs should not be casually added to a mesothelioma patient’s diet or care plan. Combining specific herbs and drugs may cause a negative reaction. Other herbs may not have a negative impact on certain medications. But these herbs may cause other issues for some patients, like allergies or liver damage. There may be safety issues too, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbs.
Mesothelioma patients should be skeptical about herbal medicines that claim to help treat cancer. For example, some proponents of Essiac herbal tea claim it has cancer-fighting properties, despite there being no evidence to support this claim. Essiac may even be dangerous for cancer patients.
It is important that patients seek medical advice and determine if any herbs are safe before adding to their care plan. Doctors can help mesothelioma patients understand if any herbs are an option for them.
Medical Marijuana for Mesothelioma
Marijuana has been part of herbal remedies for centuries. Research shows medical marijuana may ease mesothelioma cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
For instance, patients may experience relief from pain, nausea and insomnia. Medical marijuana use may also improve appetite for some cancer patients during treatment.
Mesothelioma patients should speak with their doctor about potentially using medical marijuana.
Researchers continue to study herbal medicine and its potential benefits. But it is important that patients seek medical advice to determine if any herbs are safe to add to their care plan.
Homeopathic Cancer Treatment
Malignant mesothelioma patients may use various prescription medications in their treatment plan. Some patients may wonder if they should incorporate homeopathic medicine as well.
Homeopathy is the use of nature-based substances, such as plant extracts and minerals. However, they are heavily diluted. This dilution makes it difficult for scientists to research these products.
Homeopathic remedies are not intended or shown to treat disease. Homeopathic remedies are not proven to offer any health benefits. There is no scientific support behind claims that homeopathy stimulates the body or helps destroy cancer cells. Products labeled as homeopathic may also contain ingredients that cause negative health effects. Patients considering homeopathy should discuss the risks with an oncologist before starting any therapy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. It focuses on balance, both within the body and with regards to external environments. TCM encompasses a variety of different treatments and practices. These include Chinese herbs, acupuncture and other acupoint therapies, dietary changes and movement practices like Qigong and tai chi.
While TCM therapies have no proven effect on curing mesothelioma or lung cancer, there is research to support potential benefits to cancer patients. TCM may help reduce negative side effects from other treatments like chemotherapy and improve mood, sleep and overall quality of life.
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients
04. Mind-Body Practices & Mental Health
Mind-Body Practices & Mental Health for Cancer Patients
A cancer diagnosis can be difficult to process. Throughout a cancer journey, patients may experience emotional, physical and mental stresses. Mental health techniques and mind-body practices may help patients through difficult times. For example, certain techniques may help ease anxiety, depression, sleep problems and headaches.
Some mind-body therapies may help patients focus on and improve their mental health. Other practices may relax the mind and body by focusing on breath and movement.
Counseling and Support Groups
Mesothelioma patients and their loved ones may find counseling and support groups helpful. Counselors can offer professional guidance for improving mental health. Support groups connect people with similar diagnoses and experiences. Both methods help people navigate the emotions and hurdles in cancer journeys.
Patients may be able to choose from in-person and virtual options. Both formats have different benefits to meet the needs of participants.
Support groups and counseling may help improve quality of life for patients. Some studies show these groups may improve anxiety, depression and other overwhelming feelings. Patients may also have cancer coaches available to them. Unlike counselors, these coaches are not always mental health professionals. Still, they may provide helpful guidance for many parts of a cancer journey.
Meditation for Cancer Patients
Meditation may be beneficial for some mesothelioma cancer patients. Meditation is the practice of inward-focused attention for a period of time. The goal of meditation is for individuals to clear their mind and find a calm, relaxed state. There are many different techniques and approaches, which may make meditation seem complex.
Some starting tips for patients interested in meditation include:
- Finding a quiet or comforting place to help with focus. This can help dispel stressful thoughts.
- Beginning by sitting or lying comfortably and breathing with eyes closed.
- Repeating a simple phrase. This can help people who find silence brings up too many emotions. For example, “I am here now” can bring a sense of grounding to meditation.
For cancer patients, meditation may be a helpful tool in many ways. It can help ease the stress and anxiety of a diagnosis. Meditation may offer comfort and peace during difficult treatments. Meditation may also help patients think clearly. This can lead to more confident decisions about their health care.
Yoga for Cancer Patients
Yoga is the practice of connecting body and breath through specific poses. It may offer benefits for mesothelioma cancer patients.
For cancer patients, yoga can both strengthen and relax their body and mind. Yoga may also help improve range of movement and relieve pain. Studies show yoga may help improve cancer symptoms and treatment side effects. Patients may experience these benefits by finding an accessible practice for them.
Despite what is often shown in the media, most of the movements can be simple and gentle. There are many types of yoga that are not acrobatic, such as chair yoga.
With so many options, the best yoga method and format will vary for each person. Patients may feel it is easiest to stream a beginner’s yoga video or take a live beginner’s class online. Some patients may prefer practicing with a local teacher in their home or at a studio.
Pet Therapy for Cancer Patients
Pets and other animals are often sources of great comfort and joy. As a result, visits with trained animals may be part of a therapy or treatment program. Research shows this may be beneficial for patients with cancer, such as mesothelioma.
Studies show a connection between interaction with a pet and various potential benefits for cancer patients, such as:
- Mood improvement: Pet interactions may help cancer patients decrease anxiety and improve relaxation. Animals also become welcome companions, offering comfort and support after treatments. They can be a positive distraction from the stress of cancer.
- Physical changes: Patients may experience physical benefits such as lowered blood pressure and pain relief. Petting a dog, cat or other animal can produce endorphins. These chemicals help suppress the pain response.
Some patients may feel owning a pet is not the right choice for them. Many centers offer pet therapy visits from trained support animals and their owners. These visits offer all the benefits of pet therapy at a residence or treatment center.
To find pet therapy, patients are encouraged to reach out to their cancer center or clinic. Medical staff may be able to help find a compatible program. Therapy Dogs International and Pet Partners can also help patients and families find pet therapy programs.
Other Mind-Body Practices for Cancer Patients
Overview: Hypnotherapy is a technique where a therapist guides someone into a trance-like state. While under hypnosis, individuals are generally more relaxed and calm. This results in greater concentration, focus and suggestibility.
Benefits: Hypnotherapy may help with pain, stress and anxiety. These are common challenges for patients going through cancer treatment.
Overview: Aromatherapy uses extracted plant oils, called essential oils, to promote greater health. The oils are often applied to the skin in a carrier oil, such as sunflower oil. Diffusers also mist essential oils into the air for inhalation.
Benefits: Studies have shown aromatherapy may help cancer patients with anxiety, depression and fatigue. Some essential oils may help with other treatment side effects, including nausea.
Overview: Biofeedback therapy teaches individuals to increase control of some body functions. This technique measures physiological processes and guides participants through exercises to alter them. Common focuses are heart rate, blood pressure and muscle activation.
Benefits: This alternative treatment may help with mesothelioma pain management. Studies show it may improve headache, high blood pressure and insomnia.
05. Bodywork Practices
Bodywork & Massage Therapy for Cancer
Bodywork and massage use touch and physical manipulation of the body for therapeutic or healing purposes. These therapies may support cancer treatment by providing comfort, relaxation, stress relief and other benefits. Mesothelioma patients should discuss bodywork therapy with their physician. Some patients may have physical limitations from their diagnosis and treatment plan.
Types of massage for people with mesothelioma include:
- Craniosacral treatment
- Lymphatic drainage therapy
- Standard or oncology massage
Mesothelioma specialists can help patients select the best massage or bodywork approach.
Chiropractic Cancer Treatment
Chiropractic treatment uses physical adjustments to bring better balance to the body. Chiropractors use different techniques to relieve pain and other related symptoms. As such, it may be a beneficial complementary therapy for cancer patients.
Patients may not be able to manage all mesothelioma symptoms through conventional methods. Standard cancer treatment may also cause side effects such as nausea and fatigue. Many cancer patients seek chiropractic care as a complementary method of care.
According to its practitioners, chiropractic treatment may help with symptoms, such as:
- Energy levels
- Pain relief
- Quality of life
- Sleeping patterns
There is not enough research to determine the risks and rewards of chiropractic treatment for cancer. As with all alternative treatment methods, patients should discuss options with their doctors.
Massage Therapy for Mesothelioma
Massage therapy is the hands-on practice of physically manipulating the body’s soft tissue. Some research suggests that massage therapy may help with mesothelioma cancer symptoms.
Massage therapy techniques emphasize relaxation and pain relief. There are many different types of massages, such as acupressure, Anma and Balinese. Different massage types may have different effects on the body.
Massage may help mesothelioma patients with anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, nausea, pain and/or stress. More studies are needed, and results differ on a patient-to-patient basis. It is best for patients to discuss with their doctor about adding massage therapy to their care plan.
Acupuncture for Cancer Treatment
Acupuncture is a primary approach in TCM. Thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points in order to help the flow of energy in the body.
Some clinical studies indicate acupuncture may help with some mesothelioma cancer symptoms and side effects of other treatments like chemotherapy. These include fatigue, depression and pain.
Some acupuncturists specialize in treating certain conditions. Mesothelioma patients may be able to find a practitioner experienced with cancer treatment.
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy
Lymphatic drainage is a massage-based technique that may help drain cancer patients’ lymphatic systems. For many reasons, lymph vessels and nodes can retain excess lymphatic fluid and lead to swelling. For example, lymphedema occurs when a blockage prevents fluids from draining properly.
Lymph node removal can also limit lymphatic fluid flow, causing similar issues. Many cancer patients may have their lymph nodes removed. The lymphatic system may also be damaged during radiation therapy, which can also cause lymphedema.
Lymphedema is often a long-term or chronic condition but can be treated with lymphatic drainage therapy. Patients may experience swelling at any time during their mesothelioma treatment. Lymphatic drainage therapy may be a complementary treatment option.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS Therapy)
TENS therapy directs mild electrical current through different parts of the body. It may be beneficial as an alternative treatment for cancer pain management. TENS therapy may help with pain from mesothelioma symptoms or treatment.
This technique may increase the body’s level of endorphins, reducing pain as a result. TENS may be accessible through a physical therapist. Patients may be able to use TENS at home with proper equipment and instructions.
Mesothelioma patients should first discuss TENS therapy with their doctor. It may be an appropriate addition to their care plan.
Other Bodywork Therapies for Cancer
Other bodywork therapies may help reduce cancer symptoms or treatment side effects. Some research indicates positive results from using these as complementary cancer treatments. Three notable bodywork therapies are craniosacral treatment, osteopathic medicine and reflexology.
- Craniosacral Treatment is like massage therapy for the skull and parts of the spine. This complementary treatment may help address a variety of common ailments. For patients with a mesothelioma diagnosis, craniosacral therapy may relieve pain.
- Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine focuses on the musculoskeletal system. It is a gentle, hands-on therapy that helps reduce tightness or restrictions in the body. This may help loosen and stretch joints and improve pain. Mesothelioma patients may look to osteopathy to help manage negative treatment side effects.
- Reflexology is a pain relief technique where pressure points are massaged or pressed. Most points are on the feet, which reflexology considers linked to organs and systems. Reflexology may help relieve pain, which is a common mesothelioma cancer symptom. Reflexology is also thought to help treat anxiety.
06. Lifestyle & Activity
Lifestyle, Creative & Therapeutic Activities
Cancer patients may choose to make various health-supporting lifestyle changes. They may also want to add new, therapeutic activities to help improve their quality of life. These changes may have a positive impact in many ways. Patients and their care team can discuss the best activities to add to their treatment.
When possible, it is important to incorporate activities that promote physical health. Keeping the body strong may help patients during treatment. Patients may choose from many different activities to support fitness and overall well-being.
Patients may also enjoy adding creative, therapeutic activities as well. These may help keep the mind active while providing an outlet for emotions. There are various options, including at-home activities or therapeutic treatment with a professional.
Exercise and Cancer
Cancer patients may benefit from maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Personal fitness and training can support cancer patients in different ways. Establishing a routine can help patients improve mental health and their outlook on life. It can also be a positive distraction from a diagnosis and related stress.
Some trainers and personal fitness coaches specialize in working with cancer patients. They have experience providing individuals with customized support and care. These trainers can accommodate potential limitations and physical concerns.
For example, some patients may do well with light weightlifting and moderate cardio. Other patients may do better with gentler movement, such as walking a few days per week. It is important for patients to find an exercise plan that aligns with their needs and treatment plan.
Sound and Music Therapy for Cancer
Sound therapy is a broad category of alternative cancer treatments that involve sound. Sound therapy could include the use of chanting, singing bowls or small sound boxes. Many believe sound therapy may help reduce pain levels for cancer patients.
Music therapy is one example that is often categorized as a type of sound therapy. There are many forms of music therapy, such as playing an instrument or singing. Some approaches can be as simple as listening to music.
Evidence shows music therapy may help cancer patients improve common challenges throughout treatment, such as:
- Blood pressure
This may indicate that music therapy can support cancer patients. Music therapy may enhance overall well-being and promote a higher quality of life.
Music therapy is a complementary treatment, which can support standard cancer treatment. Depending on location, patients may have cancer-specific music therapy options nearby. Some cancer centers may also provide music therapy.
07. Energy Therapies
Biofield and Energy Therapies
Mesothelioma patients may consider incorporating energy therapy into their care plans. Energy therapy is a holistic technique involving the energy field surrounding the body. In theory, a practitioner manipulates the energetic field to clear blockages. This is thought to improve the flow of energy and emotions.
There are limited studies researching these methods. There is no evidence energy therapy can cure cancer. Still, some studies show energy work may have a positive impact on cancer patients. This therapy approach may help manage symptoms, like fatigue and anxiety, and promote better mental health.
There are different types of biofield energy therapy, such as reiki and touch therapy. Although they are generally considered safe, patients should speak with their doctor first.
Healing Touch and Touch Therapy for Cancer
Healing touch therapy and therapeutic touch therapy are common forms of alternative cancer treatments. A range of locations offer these therapies, including hospitals and spas. These touch therapies work with the energetic field. Practitioners use gentle hand techniques thought to re-pattern the patient’s energy field. This re-patterning is also thought to speed up healing.
Scientific research does not show that touch therapy can cure cancer. These therapies are not seen as a replacement for treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Although there is no scientific evidence, some cancer patients find touch therapy beneficial. Some studies report that after treatment, patients have an increased feeling of wellness. Some patients also experienced a reduction in side effects from conventional treatments.
Healing Touch Therapy vs. Therapeutic Touch Therapy
Healing touch and therapeutic touch practitioners pass their hands over the patient. But with healing touch, practitioners may also use light, direct touches over main energy centers. Both practices aim to restore and balance the body’s energy.
The concept of healing touch is to address specific goals and concerns of the patient. This involves connecting with a patient’s energy field to clear and balance energies. This technique is a joint effort between patient and practitioner.
In theory, the therapeutic touch practitioner locates and removes energetic blockages to create relaxation. Practitioners of this therapy feel that it can speed up the healing process.
There is not enough evidence for science to support these beliefs. Still, these therapies may promote relaxation and have other positive effects. Therapeutic touch therapy may be helpful for mesothelioma patients. With this therapy, they may feel better equipped to manage symptoms and other related stresses.
Reiki Therapy for Cancer
Mesothelioma patients may use reiki therapy as a complementary care option. It is not a standalone treatment but may be used with standard methods. Research shows this approach can be supportive of cancer care.
Reiki involves a practitioner using their hands on or near the patient’s body. This process aims to redirect the patient’s energy flow. Practitioners hope to improve the natural healing process.
There is not any scientific backing for claims of improved healing. Still, some cancer patients have reported overall improved well-being. This may include better sleeping habits, less anxiety and pain relief.
08. Accessing Alternative Treatments
How to Access Complementary & Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments
Mesothelioma patients interested in complementary and alternative treatments should talk to their care team. Some alternative methods have more research supporting their benefits than others. There may also be some methods that interact better with a patient’s treatment plan than others. Doctors can suggest which method or methods may be safe and helpful for a patient.
These treatments will not cure mesothelioma. However, patients may experience other benefits such as relaxation and pain relief. Such benefits can help increase patients’ quality of life. Some alternative treatments may also ease side effects of cancer treatment.
A patient’s cancer center may offer some of these complementary treatments. It is common to find massage, nutrition support and counseling at cancer centers. For example, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center offers some complementary methods, such as support groups and massage therapy. The Hematology and Oncology Associates of Central New York also offers complementary approaches, including nutrition support.
With their doctor’s support, patients may also seek care outside of their center. With open communication, doctors can find the right plan for their patients.
09. Common Questions
Common Questions About Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Mesothelioma
What is the holistic approach to mesothelioma treatment?
- Holistic or integrative oncology treats patients and their illnesses. It considers the patient’s physical, mental and emotional health. Mesothelioma patients may benefit from the following integrative therapies:
- Medical marijuana
- Nutritional support
- Tai chi
Patients curious about this approach should speak with their doctors about integrative treatment. Cancer centers may also be able to provide more information or referrals.
What type of massage is best for mesothelioma patients?
- Experts say oncology massage is a safe and effective option for cancer patients. The therapist may adjust pressure, massage type and focus areas to ensure a good experience. Each oncology massage is tailored to the patient’s current needs. Mesothelioma massages may help with swelling or joint mobility.
What is the difference between complementary and alternative mesothelioma treatment?
- Complementary mesothelioma treatments are used in combination with conventional therapies. Alternative treatments are used in place of conventional therapies. Experts do not recommend replacing standard treatments with alternative treatments for mesothelioma. No evidence suggests alternative treatment alone can extend mesothelioma survival.
Are alternative mesothelioma treatments safe?
- Medical research indicates several complementary therapies are generally safe. These include acupuncture, meditation and yoga. In contrast, some alternative therapies can be harmful and may negatively affect cancer treatments. Even widely available herbal products may have negative effects. Patients should discuss any complementary or alternative therapies with their oncologists before trying them.