Is Alternative Therapy Right for You? Exploring the Benefits of Complementary Treatments for Cancer

Alternative Therapy/Treatment/Medicine. We’ve all heard these terms bandied around, especially in recent years. Technically, alternative treatment refers to any approach that is not considered mainstream or conventional.

These may include natural remedies, dietary supplements, repurposed medicines, therapies like the Gerson Method and energy therapy, as well as a wide array of preventive treatments.

The history of alternative medicine can actually be traced to the earliest civilizations. As far back as 5,000 years ago, healers in Ancient China and India were using herbal remedies, massage, meditation, and diet therapy to treat illness. In the Western world, alternative medicine gained popularity in the 19th and early 20th centuries with the development of homeopathy, naturopathy, and chiropractic. Along the way, alternative therapy earned a reputation as just that… an alternative.

People seeking treatment generally looked either to conventional methods OR alternative medicine, with mainstream methods being way more popular. But this has changed dramatically in recent years.

So what accounts for the rapid growth in alternative treatments, and could it be right for you?  


Avoiding Harsh Side Effects

When it comes to treating cancer, the side effects of conventional methods can often be as debilitating as the disease itself.

Mainstream cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are designed to destroy cancer cells and slow or stop the progression of the disease, but they can also cause a wide range of side effects, ranging from mild to quite severe.

Many cancer patients experience hair loss, nausea, fatigue, pain, and other symptoms during and after treatment. Alternative treatments are seen as a way to manage cancer without the harsh side effects of conventional treatments. They are generally considered to be less invasive and have fewer side effects than conventional treatments, which can make them more appealing to patients who are looking for a way to improve their quality of life while managing their disease. For example, Vitamin C, when administered in high-dose therapy, has been shown to be effective in killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact.


Treating the Underlying Causes 

Cancer is a complex disease with multiple underlying causes, including genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and other factors that can affect the body’s natural ability to fight cancer.

Many alternative treatments seek to combat these underlying causes rather than focus solely on targeting cancer cells or the symptoms of the disease itself.

Take the body’s immune system, for example. The immune system is responsible for identifying and destroying cancer cells, and a weakened immune system can make it easier for cancer cells to grow and spread.

Alternative treatments such as immunotherapy and herbal remedies can boost the immune system, helping to prevent the growth and spread of cancer.

Alternative treatments also focus on preventative care by addressing lifestyle factors that can increase cancer risk. For example, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to environmental toxins. Alternative treatments such as dietary changes, exercise, and stress reduction techniques can help address these factors and reduce cancer risk.


Seeking a Comprehensive Care Model

In our modern healthcare system, many people are dissatisfied with the short amount of time they get with their healthcare providers and with doctors handing out one-size-fits-all status-quo solutions. They can see that the conventional model is not working for them, so they seek a more holistic approach.

Alternative medicine looks at the broader picture of one’s health, taking into account what the patient does on a daily basis, their fitness level, pre-existing factors, genetic markers, and more. In addition to developing a treatment plan, alternative medical providers also work with patients to educate, support, and motivate them.

Instead of being seen as just the sum of their chart, patients who turn to alternative treatments feel they are truly listened to and have more control over their healthcare.   


Complementary Treatment

The biggest factor in alternative treatment’s surge in popularity in recent years can be attributed to the fact that it is no longer being used solely as an alternative to conventional medicine. Instead, patients opt for what is known as a complementary treatment. That is, using alternative treatment options alongside more conventional methods in order to bolster their efficacy, help ease side effects, and improve quality of life. 

These treatments can be nutritional (e.g., special diets, dietary supplements, herbs, probiotics, and microbial-based therapies), psychological (e.g., meditation, hypnosis, music therapies, relaxation therapies), physical (e.g., acupuncture, massage, spinal manipulation), or a combination such as psychological and physical (e.g., yoga, tai chi, dance therapies, some forms of art therapy) or psychological and nutritional (e.g., mindful eating). Complementary treatment can be a great solution for those who want the proven effectiveness of conventional methods alongside all the many benefits of alternative medicine. These days, many cancer treatment centers and hospitals offer integrative oncology programs that incorporate complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, and herbal supplements into a patient’s care plan.


How Do I Know What, If Any, Alternative and Complementary Treatments Plans Are Right For Me?

Navigating the world of alternative therapy can be daunting for cancer patients and their loved ones. There is, by definition, less information about these treatments, and conventional doctors, who would otherwise be a good source of knowledge, may be reluctant to recommend them to their patients.

Whatsmore, the use of complementary and alternative therapies for cancer can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type and stage of cancer, the patient’s personal beliefs and preferences, current treatment plans, and the availability of these therapies in their geographic region.

Here’s where Heal Navigator can help. We can walk you through all of the relevant treatment options, help you find the right clinic for you, or pair you with an integrative oncology nurse who can personalize a detailed plan for you. Find some time to speak with our advisor (free), here >>

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