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
"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
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
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.