A number of people undergoing treatment for cancer turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to support their recovery process.
Acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal medicine and meditation practices are among the therapies that cancer patients find helpful. These can provide stress and pain relief, and can help to control the effects of disease and treatment.
Now, a new review of evidence drawn form a range of studies and clinical trails demonstrates that CAM can play a crucial role in influencing cancer survivorship.
Used in combination with conventional medicine and lifestyle changes, CAM can have “a major effect on survival”.
Dr Moshe Frenkel, MD – founder of the Integrative Oncology Clinic at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center – said:
“In the academic arena, complementary therapies are known to be used to reduce symptom intensity and improve quality of life during and after cancer treatments.
“There is actually quite good evidence from multiple studies that suggest that these therapies — including nutrition, certain supplements, physical activity, and stress reduction — actually do have a major effect on survival.”
Frenkel was the lead author of the review, which was published in Current Oncology Reports. He and his colleagues reviewed evidence that assessed the use of nutrition, physical activity, mind-body interventions and combined CAM approaches in cancer patients.
Mind-body interventions such as mindfulness and meditation are often used to help reduce stress and promote healthier well-being in cancer patients. Some reports have shown prolonged survival as a result of their use.
Nutrition is also considered an important factor in the prevention and management of diseases such as cancer. Past research shows 30-40% of cancers can be prevented by proper nutrition and physical activity.
Furthermore, Frenkel and his team identified a number of studies that show using a combination of complementary and alternative therapies could have great impact on survival.
However, there is still a long way to go before CAM becomes a core element of treatment programmes.
Dr Frenkel said: “Today, an increased number of physicians and integrative oncology programmes are starting to look at these issues and actually add this aspect to counselling, but still the number of patients that actually implement this information is quite low.”