Alternatives Therapies to Cope with Cancer

Can Alternative Therapies Help Cancer Patients Cope?

There are many alternative therapies promoted as being beneficial in helping patients to deal with, or for actually treating people with cancer.

Unfortunately, many of these treatments are unproven – and some may actually be dangerous. Never trust an ad or announcement that urges you to stop your current, traditional treatment in favor of some “miracle” cure or take any “all natural” herbs or supplements that promise “curative” medicinal benefits.

The truth is that alternative cancer treatments have not been shown to cure cancer.

Having said that, some may help provide a degree of relief from signs and symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, pain, anxiety/stress, and difficulty sleeping.

Always Consult With Your Physician First

Oftentimes cancer specialists will recommend combining the best evidence-based complementary and alternative cancer treatments with the medical treatments you may currently be receiving. Specific alternative treatments may be used to help specific symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.

It is essential to discuss all of your options with your doctor and together you can determine which strategies might work best for your particular situation, and which are likely to have little or no benefit. Your physician will determine the right balance between traditional medicines and alternative cancer treatments.

Understand that while complementary and alternative cancer treatments may reduce nausea or pain, they generally are not powerful enough to replace more traditional cancer medications prescribed by your doctor. Never take supplements unless it’s on the specific recommendation of your doctor. Some supplements may react with or interfere with medications you are currently taking and end up doing more harm than good.

Common Complimentary and Alternative Treatments to Consider

As mentioned above, certain treatments are generally used to help treat specific symptoms. Your physician and healthcare team will work closely with you to help determine which treatment, or treatments, will be most beneficial for your particular situation.

Hypnosis: Hypnosis is used to help cancer patients attain a deep state of concentration and may be helpful for cancer patients who are experiencing pain and anxiety. It may also help prevent anticipatory nausea that may occur if chemotherapy has made you sick in the past. When performed by a certified therapist, hypnosis is safe, but always be sure to advise your therapist of any history of mental illness.

Acupuncture: An acupuncture practitioner inserts tiny needles into your skin at precise points. Studies have shown that acupuncture may be helpful in relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy, and may also help relieve certain types of pain in people with cancer. Also note that acupuncture is not for people taking blood thinners or with low blood counts. Again, be sure to always check with your doctor first.


Meditation: Similar to hypnosis, meditation is a state of deep concentration. Generally, patients are directed to focus their mind on one image, sound, or idea such as a positive thought. Deep breathing or relaxation exercises are often used in conjunction to help control pain and relieve stress.

Massage: There are various methods of massage, but generally, massage therapists knead the skin, muscles and tendons in an effort to relieve muscle tension and stress and to promote relaxation. Studies have found that massage can be helpful in reducing pain and fatigue while easing anxiety and stress.

Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy uses fragrant oils to provide a calming sensation. These can be applied to your skin, added to bath water, or are sometimes heated to release their scents into the air. Aromatherapy may be helpful in relieving nausea, pain, and stress.

Yoga: There are many types of yoga, each with its own variations, but generally Yoga combines stretching exercises with deep breathing. During a yoga session, you position your body in various poses that require bending, twisting and stretching. Yoga has been shown to improve sleep, reduce fatigue, and ease stress.

Tai chi: Tai chi is a form of exercise that incorporates gentle movements and deep breathing to help focus both body and mind to help relieve stress. The slow movements of tai chi don’t require great physical strength and the exercises can be easily adapted to your own abilities.

Music therapy: During music therapy sessions, a patient might listen to music, play instruments, sing songs, or write lyrics. A trained music therapist may lead you through specific activities designed to meet your needs and achieve specific goals. Music therapy is safe and doesn’t require any musical talent to participate.

Finding the Treatment That’s Right For You

There are other legitimate, tried and true alternative therapies beyond what we’ve listed here. Some patients may find some alternative treatments work well on their own, while others may benefit from using several together. We can’t stress enough the importance of talking with your doctor before beginning any course of alternative or complimentary treatment.

And never let fear or feelings of depression, anxiety, or desperation get in the way of common sense.