Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer

  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine

    Complementary and Alternative Medicine

    In patients with cancer, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) generally focuses on improving cancer-associated symptoms such as anxiety, pain, fatigue, nausea, stress, as well as sleep and mood disturbances.<sup>1</sup>

  • Beyond the Physical

    Beyond the Physical

    In addition to helping control symptoms, CAM may also address the emotional, spiritual, and mental needs of patients, allowing them to cope better with their diagnosis. This may ultimately lead to an improved quality of life.<sup>2,3</sup>

  • Evidence Supporting Yoga

    Evidence Supporting Yoga

    Various controlled trials in patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy have shown that practicing yoga may yield favorable outcomes, such as decreased frequency of nausea, anxiety, depression and overall improved quality of life.<sup>2</sup>

  • Energy Therapy

    Energy Therapy

    Energy therapies are based on the manipulation of “bioenergy fields” through light touch or bioelectromagnetic approaches and have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. However, limited evidence exists to support their use in treating cancer-related side effects.<sup>2</sup>

  • Alternative Medical Systems: Acupuncture

    Alternative Medical Systems: Acupuncture

    Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in managing cancer-related pain, chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting, and radiation-induced xerostomia.<sup>2</sup>

  • Body-Based Manipulative Practices: Massage Therapy

    Body-Based Manipulative Practices: Massage Therapy

    Massage therapy has been found to be effective in reducing distress, fatigue, anxiety and pain.<sup>2</sup> When focusing on manual lymphatic drainage, massage therapy has also been found to be effective in reducing limb volume in patients with breast cancer–associated lymphedema.<sup>1</sup>

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Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used as an adjunct to traditional therapies in an effort to provide supportive care in improving symptom control and patient well-being.1

Incorporating CAM in oncology has led to the development of integrative oncology where an emphasis is also placed in the emotional, spiritual, and mental needs of patients with cancer in addition to medical outcomes.2 Examples of CAM include acupuncture, energy therapy, massage therapy, and mind-body therapy, all of which can help manage side effects of cancer treatment, including fatigue, pain, and nausea.2

CAM can aid patients in coping with their diagnosis in a more confrontive manner, leading patients to take an active role in their treatment plan and achieve an improved quality of life.3

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