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yoga-iconManaging Mesothelioma Symptoms Through Holistic Treatments

holistic medicineWhat Is Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine is an alternative care approach that treats a patient as a “whole” person as opposed to simply treating the symptoms and illness. Holistic care looks at an individual’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being in an attempt to improve the health and prevent further illness. The concept follows Aristotle’s theory that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Holistic practitioners believe that there is no limit to the range of diseases that can be treated, although alternative medicine does not specifically focus on a disease. For example, mesothelioma is not treated; rather the body and immune system are strengthened allowing the body’s defense mechanisms to heal the cancer.

The approach works on balancing the body, mind, spirit, and emotions while improving the immune system as the entire being begins functioning smoothly. An illness, disease, or disorder is seen as an imbalance in the body’s systems. Alternative medicine and holistic practice have been around for centuries, but only relatively recently has the modern medical field begun to accept it and begin to integrate it into the health care system and treatment for patients.

Holistic therapies tend to emphasize proper nutrition, avoidance of chemical substances, use of homeopathic remedies, and meditation techniques. Holistic care techniques are non-invasive. Some of the major holistic therapies include ayurveda, chiropractic, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, Unani, stress reduction, and reflexology.

Hypnosis for Pain Management

Trying to limit the amount of pills ingested into their system, some mesothelioma patients are turning to hypnosis as a way to manage their pain. Hypnosis is becoming more popular in clinical settings and is used to help people stop smoking, lose weight, and now, deal with pain. Hypnotherapy, when performed by a trained specialist, has been proven to be a powerful and effective procedure for many people. The hypnotist slowly brings the patient to a state of high concentration allowing him to have a strict focus. The person then “projects” himself to, or envisions himself in, another place or state where he can block pain awareness or substitutes other sensations for the painful ones. Hypnosis is considered an unconventional therapy and is often used with other holistic treatments including yoga and meditation. Hypnosis is not effective for everyone.

Supplements and Lifestyle Changes

Some mesothelioma patients decide not to embark on the path of standard treatment and opt instead for alternative treatments and lifestyle and dietary changes. Through radical lifestyle changes and by altering their diet by adding a regimen of vitamins, herbs, amino acids and other immune boosting therapies and supplements, some find without the often debilitating side effects from chemotherapy they can continue to live their lives as they had before their diagnosis. Focusing on the power of the mind-body connection choosing to be optimistic and positive is also beneficial. By reaffirming a focus in life and the reason living, taking on their emotional healing can bring physical healing. By choosing to manage their shortened life outside a clinical setting, those that opt for holistic care feel empowered by their choices. Even though they know they will probably not be cured, they believe continuing to live their life as they choose is important for them and their families.

cannabis-iconCannabis and Cannabinoids for Cancer

cannabisCannabis, also known as Marijuana, has been found to ease cancer pain as well as chemotherapy-induced nausea. It is more effective in relieving symptoms, has few, if any, side effects, and the patients do not build up a tolerance. Cannabis, contains chemicals called cannabinoids, phytocannabinoids or cannabidiol. These chemicals may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, since they act as anti-inflammatories, block cell growth and prevent growth of blood vessels that supply tummors. However, Cannabis is not approved by the FDA for use as a cancer treatment or for the treatment of any cancer-related symptom or side effect of cancer therapy. Two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) are approved by the FDA for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in patients who have not responded to standard therapy.

Marijuana is illegal in the United States, but there are some States that allow the use of medical marijuana for certain diseases, such as: Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.

The most common ways of administering the drug is by ingesting or inhaling it:
  • When ingested through the mouth it is usually in baked products or as an herbal tea. Some clinical trials studying cannabis use a spray that is sprayed under the tongue for it to take effect.
  • When inhaled the cannabinoid chemicals quickly enter the bloodstream.

Clinical Trials

When GW Pharmaceuticals set out to bring relief to oncology patients, it knew that the benefits of cannabinoids, derived from cannabis or marijuana plants, were the key. However, the company did not believe that smoking the drug was, or is, the answer. GW Pharmaceuticals highlighted Sativex as a marijuana-based drug that was granted Fast-Track designation. At the moment Sativex is undergoing Phase III trials in the USA for Cancer Pain, and no regulatory application has been made for MS spasticity.

Acupuncture

accupuncture

Acupuncture is a used to control pain including cancer pain. It may help relieve mesothelioma patients’ symptoms such as nausea and vomiting caused by treatment. Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years as part of traditional Chinese medicine.

In Western medicine, acupuncture may serve as a type of complementary therapy in addition to conventional cancer treatment.

Acupuncture To Manage Pain, Nausea From Mesothelioma Treatment

Acupuncturists apply very thin needles, pressure and heat to certain strategic points to stimulate the body’s nerves and muscles. In response to acupuncture, the body may release proteins, hormones and brain chemicals that appear to boost the immune system and reduce pain. While people suffering from many illnesses undergo acupuncture, it is primarily used to control pain.

The National Institutes of Health began evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture as a complementary and alternative therapy in 1997. According to the National Cancer Institute, the strongest evidence of the benefits of acupuncture has come from clinical trials studying the use of acupuncture to relieve nausea and vomiting. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which are standard treatments for mesothelioma, weaken the body’s immune system.

Some studies suggest that acupuncture may strengthen the immune system during chemotherapy. Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy which uses powerful drugs such as pemetrexed and cisplatin to kill mesothelioma cells in your body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the risks of acupuncture are generally low if you have an experienced, certified acupuncture therapist. The side effects may include soreness or bruising at the needle sites or organ injury if needles are pushed in too deeply. Organ punctures are a rare complication with a skilled acupuncturist. Your risks of bleeding may increase if you are taking blood thinners. Not all patients are good candidates for acupuncture.

If you are undergoing treatment for mesothelioma and you’re considering complementary therapies such as acupuncture, talk to your doctor about which complementary treatments would be most beneficial. Not all patients’ symptoms respond to acupuncture. If your symptoms don’t start to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be beneficial to you.

homeopathy-iconHomeopathy

homeopathyHomeopathy is a non traditional form of medical treatment that uses very small amounts of substances diluted in water to treat illness. The term comes from the Greek words homoios, which means “similar,” and pathos, which means “suffering.” Homeopathic remedies are developed under the principle that drugs that mimic the symptoms of an illness can be effective in treating it, and that the more a substance has been diluted in water, the greater its potency.

Most doctors discourage the use of homeopathic medicine as the primary treatment of serious illnesses such as cancer. Even so, some patients use homeopathic remedies to treat cancer symptoms, or even side effects of chemotherapy. Homeopathic substances that have been tried by patients include cadmium sulphuricum (believed to fight chemotherapy side effects such as exhaustion, hair loss, nausea and weight loss), as well as other substances such as Arsenic album, Ipecacuanha, Nux vomica and phosphorus.

Advocates of homeopathic treatments say that the diluted nature of homeopathic remedies allow them to be safely ingested. Critics claim homeopathic solutions contain toxic chemicals. Self-treatment for mesothelioma is strongly discouraged. Most scientific evidence does not support the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies in cancer treatment.

In 2005, the University of Texas published a clinical study of the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies on cancer patients. According to the study, there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is an effective cancer treatment. However, one study published in the journal Cancer found evidence that the homeopathic remedy Traumeel S could greatly reduce the severity and duration of chemotherapy side effects such as stomatitis. As with all cancer treatment options, any use of homeopathic medicine should be discussed with your mesothelioma physician.

People with cancer might think about using alternative and complementary methods for a number of reasons:
  • To relieve cancer treatment side effects without medicine
  • To find a less unpleasant treatment approach that might have few side effects
  • To take an active role in one’s own health and well-being
  • To explore theories of non-traditional medicine

The American Cancer Society has compiled several resources that can help inform your decision about using alternative forms of medicine to treat cancer.

About the Author - 

Nancy is a blog and content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience. Nancy has been writing about mesothelioma and cancer for close to eight years.

Published: Nov 22, 2013 - Updated: Jul 8, 2016
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