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Alternative Health


Complementary therapies help cancer patients

Reported January 05, 2009

The use of complementary therapies by cancer patients undergoing standard hospital treatment for their illness is on the rise.

A study of 406 women with breast cancer found half had used some form of complementary therapy since being diagnosed.

They were turning to massage, herbal supplements, antioxidants, relaxation, counselling, health-food aids, reflexology, reiki and support groups to help them through.

"Dietary interventions were used primarily to reduce symptoms and side effects while reduction of psychological stress was the primary reason for stress-reducing therapies," the findings showed.

The study -- led by the UCD School of Nursing Midwifery & Health Systems, in conjunction with three Dublin cancer hospitals -- said most of the patients reported the therapies they used were helpful.

However, just one third of those who were opting for special diets discussed it with their doctor, the study presented to the All Ireland Cancer Conference, revealed.


This contrasted with other therapies about which patients opened up more freely to their specialists.



The authors said the findings confirmed the popularity of these therapies while the challenge for health professionals is to identify those which are low risk and likely to benefit patients.

It is also necessary to question and educate patients about therapies which may not be appropriate for their illness and a cause a concern.

Cancer Research UK has looked at a number of popular therapies such as reflexology. It pointed to a study in 2007 showing when partners gave reflexology treatment to people with metastatic cancer, the patients had less pain and distress.

Aromatherapy is one of the complementary therapies most likely to be offered to patients in cancer care centres.

One study showed cancer patients suffering from anxiety or depression who had massage and aromatherapy saw an improvement in their symptoms for up to two weeks after they had the therapy. But the benefit did not last long term.

It said there is no scientific evidence to prove that homeopathy can cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer.

There is no evidence to show that acupuncture helps in any way with treating or curing cancer but it is sometimes used to help relieve disease symptoms or side-effects of cancer treatment. The advice is to beware of any complementary therapy which promises a cure for cancer and do your research to find a reputable practitioner.