Complementary & Alternative Therapies
A complementary therapy means you can use it alongside your conventional medical treatment. It may help you to feel better and cope better with your cancer and treatment. It is important to discuss with your doctor any complementary therapy that you are thinking of using.
An alternative therapy is generally used instead of conventional medical treatment. All conventional cancer treatments have to go through rigorous testing by law in order to prove that they work. Most alternative therapies have not been through such testing and there is no scientific evidence that they work. Some types of alternative therapy may not be completely safe and could cause harmful side effects.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. The inhaled aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function.
A holistic aromatherapy treatment aims at treating the whole person. The physical body, the mind and the spirit. Therefore, holistic aromatherapy utilises the pharmacological, psychotherapeutic and metaphysical properties of the oils.
There are more than 400 essential oils; some are used to make cosmetics or perfumes, and others are used in healing. Aromatherapy has been used in conjunction with nutritional therapy for centuries, offering both a back-up to recovery and a treatment in itself!
Holistic aromatherapy uses oils have different healing effects on the body. Many of these properties overlap so several oils can be used to treat one condition. Only a few of these oils are commonly used in people with cancer.
Individuals being treated for cancer should not use aromatherapy without consulting their oncologist first as it is contra-indicated for some cancers. Children younger than age 5 should not use aromatherapy, because they can be very sensitive to the oil.
Acupuncture falls under the banner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is a system of primary health care that includes Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Remedial Massage (Anmo Tuina), Exercise and Breathing Therapy (such as Qigong), and Diet and Lifestyle Advice.
In the West we tend to think of “medicine” as a way of dealing with illness and disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on the other hand focuses on achieving health and well-being through the cultivation of harmony within our lives.
Acupuncture is a treatment that involves putting fine needles into the body at particular points. The needles are left in place for a short time and then removed. Acupuncture can help with some physical problems such as pain and feeling sick. It can also help to reduce symptoms such as anxiety.
Western medical acupuncture is a modern interpretation of acupuncture based on scientific research. Treatments are given following a medical diagnosis and can be used alongside conventional cancer treatments such as cancer drugs or radiotherapy.
Antioxidants, also known as “free radical scavengers,” are chemicals that interact with and neutralise free radicals, thus preventing them from causing damage.
The human body makes some of the antioxidants, called endogenous antioxidants that it uses to neutralise free radicals, but it relies on external sources, primarily the diet, to obtain the rest of the antioxidants it needs.
External or exogenous antioxidants are commonly called dietary antioxidants and can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as in certain dietary supplements such as beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Antioxidant supplementation during conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy is a controversial subject, which is why we are including it in our information pages, so that you have a good knowledge-base from which to make an informed decision on its use or not. Some studies suggest taking antioxidants supplements during treatment may be beneficial; however, there are just as many studies that tell us this may be harmful.
Art Therapy, also known as Creative Arts Therapy or Expressive Arts Therapy is a healing modality based on the premise that the integration of art into the healing process can be emotionally restorative and can serve as an outlet for the expression of all the emotions a diagnosis like cancer brings.
Art Therapy can be a way for people to express their unspoken or unconscious concerns about their illness and their lives, deal with emotional conflicts, increase self-awareness, cope with cancer and reduce stress.
Young children with cancer have so much to face, dealing with extra-ordinary challenges every day such as various medical procedures such as MRIs, X-Rays, Catheters, Transfusions, Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiation, and the side-effects of those treatments. They also lose a big part of their childhood as they have to give up many things most kids take for granted.
Creativity is, in a very fundamental manner, tied to our sense of being vital, alive and healthy. Physical illness, especially an illness as devastating as cancer, does not only affect the body, but the mind and the spirit too.
Ayurveda is the traditional healing modality of the Vedic culture from India. It is said to be 2000 to 5000 years old, meaning it has stood the test of time.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that literally translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity”.
It is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems and focuses on harmony and balance between the mind, spirit, environment and cosmos.
Key concepts of Ayurvedic medicine include Universal Interconnectedness (among people, their health, and the universe), the Body’s Constitution (Janma Prakriti), and Life Forces (dosha), which are often compared to the Biologic Humours of the ancient Greek system. Using these concepts, Ayurvedic physicians prescribe individualised treatments, including compounds of herbs or proprietary ingredients, and diet, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations.
Biofeedback, also known as Neurofeedback, EEG Biofeedback, NF and NFB is a medically approved, non-invasive, drug-free form of brain self-regulation that improves the central nervous system by training the brain to operate at an optimal level.
Biofeedback is a type of mind-body therapy. It uses a simple machine to measure body functions that we aren’t normally aware of, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating and tightness in our muscles.
You then learn how to use your mind to control these body functions without using the biofeedback machine.
Neurofeedback was discovered by NASA in the 1960s, and is essentially a complementary mind-body therapy that works on the premise that by harnessing the power of your mind and becoming aware of what’s going on inside your body, you can gain more control over your health.
Cannabis , also known as marijuana, is a plant from Central Asia that is grown in many parts of the world today.
The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive (acting on the brain and changing mood or consciousness).
In the United States, Cannabis is a controlled substance and has been classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use).
Cannabinoids are active chemicals in Cannabis that act on certain receptors on cells in our body, especially cells in the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, which work together to control all the functions of the body; they are also known as phytocannabinoids.
The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD).
Cartilage is a type of tough, flexible connective tissue that forms parts of the skeleton in many animals.
Cartilage contains cells called chondrocytes, which are surrounded by collagen (a fibrous protein) and proteoglycans, which are made of protein and carbohydrate.
Cartilage from cows (bovine cartilage) and sharks has been studied as a treatment for people with cancer and other medical conditions for more than 30 years.
It was once believed that sharks, whose skeletons are made mostly from cartilage, do not develop cancer. This caused interest in cartilage as a possible treatment for cancer. Although malignant tumours are rare in sharks, cancers have been found in these animals.
Chiropractic Therapy is based on the idea that a healthy spine and nervous system play an important role in your overall health and well-being.
Chiropractors see illness as the result of nerves being compressed by muscle spasms or joints that are out of place. They treat the illness by moving, or manipulating, the bones of the spine and other joints and muscles to release the compressed nerves.
Chiropractors don’t use medicines or surgery; they are trained to diagnose physical problems and are likely to call themselves primary healthcare practitioners rather than complementary therapists.
Chiropractors treat illness by moving, or manipulating, the bones of the spine and other joints and muscles to release the compressed nerves, and most commonly treat back pain, neck pain, headaches and pain from muscle, joint and bone problems.
Energy Therapies are also called biofield therapies. Energy therapy is the gentle art of clearing cellular memory through the human energy field promoting health, balance and relaxation, and is based on the concept of connection between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realms of our lives found in many holistic healing methods.
Energy therapy uses focused healing energy to clear blocks that accumulate in the body hindering the natural flow of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. When energy is flowing freely through your body, you have good emotional, physical and spiritual health. When you are ill, the energy flow is blocked.
Energy Healing Practitioners believe that Energy Healing is an important component in the treatment of cancer; it can address root cause, therefore can help the individual focus on the underlying factors and reverse them. Energy Healing opens the channels so that treatments such as chemotherapy can work more efficiently. Conversely, it can also remove chemo from the body after it has done its work, thus reducing the toxic load on the body.
Essiac and Flor Essence are herbal tea mixtures sold worldwide as herbal dietary supplements or health tonics, and which are often used ascomplementary treatments for AIDS, Cancer, Diabetes, and Gastrointestinal Diseases.
Essiac is comprised of 4 herbs: Burdock Root; Indian Rhubarb Root; Sheep Sorrel; and Slippery Elm (the inner bark).
Flor Essence reportedly contains the same 4 herbs found in Essiac plus 4 additional herbs: Watercress; Blessed thistle; Red clover; Kelp.
As with most natural remedies, batches of these mixtures may differ and contain the above herbs in different quantities or may contain additional ingredients, so the effect may not always be the exact same in different batches.
Treatment of childhood cancer is associated with a spectrum of late effects, including impaired growth and development, cognitive dysfunction, diminished neurological function, cardiopulmonary compromise, musculoskeletal sequelae, and secondary malignancy. Therefore, attention today is focused not only on survival but also on the quality of survival.
Impaired physical fitness has been reported during and after childhood cancer treatment. Impaired physical fitness typically includes reduced cardiopulmonary function, decreased muscle strength, fatigue, and altered physical function. Treatments for childhood cancer, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, can result in acute and long-term injury to the heart, lungs, and skeletal muscles, systems necessary for optimal physical fitness
Exercise may help you manage signs and symptoms during and after cancer treatment. Gentle exercise may help relieve fatigue and stress and help you sleep better. Many studies now show that an exercise program may help people with cancer live longer and improve their overall quality of life.
Some children with cancer can benefit from simple exercises such as wrapping silly putty around the hands of a physical therapist. The exercise helps strengthen their hands where neuropathy has developed as a result of chemotherapy.
Gerson therapy is an alternative therapy diet, which means it is usually used instead of conventional treatment for cancer.
Gerson therapy involves a very specific diet with nutritional supplements. It aims to rid the body of toxins and strengthen the body’s immune system.
Gerson Therapy is based on the role of minerals, enzymes, and other dietary factors, and has been used by some individuals to treat cancer and other conditions.
With its whole-body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your body’s ability to heal itself – with no damaging side effects. This powerful, natural treatment boosts the body’s own immune system and has been used to treat cancer, arthritis, heart disease, allergies, and many other degenerative diseases.
is also often referred to as Imagery or Visualisation, and is the use of images to assist one to imagine and attain a specific goal.
Guided Imagery is based on the premise that the mind and body are connected, and that one can use one’s imagination to influence one’s physical health and sense of well-being.
Guided Imagery involves far more than just the visual sense though, which is a good thing as only around 55% of people are strongly wired visually. Guided imagery techniques therefore involve all of the senses.
Advocates have long contended that the imagination is a potent healer that has long been overlooked by practitioners of Western medicine, and believe that Imagery can relieve pain, speed healing and help the body subdue hundreds of ailments, including depression, impotence, allergies and asthma.
The power of the mind to influence the body is quite remarkable. Although it isn’t always curative, imagery can be helpful in 90% of the problems that people normally visit their primary care physician for.
Herbal medicine uses plants, or mixtures of plant extracts, to treat illness and promote health. It aims to restore your body’s ability to protect, regulate and heal itself.
It is a whole body approach, so looks at your physical, mental and emotional well-being. It is sometimes called phytomedicine, phytotherapy or botanical medicine.
Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside conventional medicine. Traditional Chinese herbal remedies are part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and have been used in China for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese herbal remedies are a large part of TCM.
They can be given as pills, teas, powders, liquid extracts or syrups. Hundreds of different types of herbs are used in TCM, and TCM practitioners often use combinations of herbs rather than a single herb.
Many modern drugs are made from plants. But herbalists don’t extract plant substances in the way the drug industry does. Herbalists believe that the remedy works due to the delicate chemical balance of the whole plant, or mixtures of plants, not one particular active ingredient.
Vitamin C is a nutrient found in food and dietary supplements. It is an antioxidant and also plays a key role in making collagen.
High-dose vitamin C has been studied as a treatment for patients with cancer since the 1970s.
We can get a lot of vitamin C from various fruits, especially citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges. Other foodstuffs that are high in Vitamin C, which most individuals are totally unaware of, include Chili peppers, Red bell peppers, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Pineapple, Kale, Broccoli, Papaya, Green bell peppers, Strawberries, Kiwi Fruit, and Mango.
We can also take vitamin C tablets, but the amount of Vitamin C that we can get from those sources is not as high as what one can get with an intravenous (IV) infusion.
Hypnosis is an altered state of awareness in which you are relaxed but have focused attention. Clinical hypnosis by qualified hypnotherapists is a medically recognised therapy used to treat emotional or physical problems.
Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy used to create subconscious change in a patient in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings. It is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis.
Some reports show that hypnosis can help people to reduce their blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and pain. Hypnosis can create relaxing brain wave patterns. Some clinical trials have looked at how well hypnotherapy works for people with cancer.
A report from the American National Institute for Health in 1996 stated that hypnosis can help to reduce some kinds of cancer pain. A large review in 2006 looked at using hypnotherapy to control distress and pain from medical procedures in children with cancer. The review found that hypnotherapy did seem to help to reduce the children’s pain and distress, but it recommended more research.
Jin Shin Jyutsu is the Art of releasing tensions which are the causes for various symptoms in the body. Our bodies contain several energy pathways that feed life into all of our cells.
When one or more of these paths become blocked, this damming effect may lead to discomfort or even pain.
This blockage or stagnation will not only disrupt the local area but will continue and eventually disharmonise the complete path or paths of the energy flow.
Through Jin Shin Jyutsu, our awareness is awakened to the simple fact that we are endowed with the ability to harmonise and balance ourselves (in rhythm with the universe) physically, mentally and spiritually.
Jin Shin Jyutsu identifies about a dozen energy pathways and more than 50 points throughout the body. Gently touching these points in various patterns reportedly resolves different ailments and clears energy blocks. Anyone can learn to practice JSJ on their own, or they can receive JSJ therapy from a trained practitioner.
Labyrinth walking involves a meditative walk along a set circular pathway that goes to the center and comes back out. Labyrinths can also be “walked” online or on a grooved board following the curved path with a finger.
Life is not always easy, and our dreams are not always fulfilled in the manner we first anticipated. Yet, like on a labyrinth, each step along the path leads us closer to our destined goal, even when that goal is unexpectedly different that we once imagined.
Life happens. People change. Illness, injury or even death occurs when we are least prepared and are most vulnerable.
Unlike mazes, which are designed to confuse users, labyrinths consist of a single path that winds its way from the outside of the circle to the centre and back out again. Not only are they being used to complement traditional cancer treatment, but they are also a supportive measure for family members and caregivers.
is a partly man made (synthetic) form of the natural substance Amygdalin and has been used as a treatment for people with cancer worldwide.
The term “laetrile” comes from 2 words (laevorotatory and mandelonitrile) and is used to describe a purified form of the chemical amygdalin. Amygdalin is a plant compound that contains sugar and produces cyanide. Cyanide is believed to be the active cancer-killing ingredient in laetrile.
Amygdalin is found naturally in raw nuts and the pips of many fruits, particularly apricot pips, or kernels. It is also present in plants such as lima beans, clover and sorghum.
Although laetrile is also often called Vitamin B17, it isn’t a vitamin. It is also known as Mandelonitrile beta D gentiobioside; Mandelonitrile beta glucuronide; Laevorotatory; Purasin; Amygdalina, and Nitriloside.
Massage Therapy is a system of treatment that works by stroking, kneading, tapping or pressing the soft tissues of the body. It aims to relax you mentally and physically. It has been used for centuries. Massage may concentrate on the muscles, the soft tissues, or on the acupuncture points.
Massage therapists work in a variety of settings, including private offices, hospitals, nursing homes, studios, and sport and fitness facilities. Some also travel to patients’ homes or workplaces. They usually try to provide a calm, soothing environment.
Considering the long history of massage, its incorporation into Western medicine is only in its infancy. The potential for growth and research of the healing properties of therapeutic massage and body work has gained great momentum over the last fifty years, and the public demand for massage therapy is at an all-time high.
As a preventative practice, therapeutic massage is used in spas, gyms and work places all over the country. Using massage therapy to promote balance and maintain internal and external health is something that is now a standard part of the North American lifestyle.
In the health care industry, massage is commonly used in hospitals, nursing homes and birthing centers. It is also used in physical therapy and in chiropractic clinics to treat pain, increase circulation and expedite the healing of injured muscles. Massage therapy is one of the most popular complementary therapies used by people living with cancer.
Meditation is a type of mind-body therapy. Mind-body therapies are based on the connection between the mind and the body and how the health of one affects the health of the other.
Meditation is the practice of concentrating or focusing your attention to increase mental awareness and calm your mind and body. The aim is to be aware of thoughts that normally occupy your mind or to experience the sensations that flow through your body and mind.
One of the most important parts of meditation is conscious breathing, or being aware of the way that you breathe. Taking regular, slow, deep and quiet breaths helps to calm your body and mind. It’s believed that this type of breathing will help lower blood pressure and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Many people try different types of meditation to see what works best for them. You may find it hard to meditate at first, but most people get better with practice. You can practise meditation once or twice a day for short time periods of 10 or 15 minutes or for longer periods of time.
There are many different types of meditation. Most involve being still and quiet, but some involve movement, such as tai chi, chi gong or walking meditation.
is the use of music as a way to help people express and cope with difficult feelings. It can encourage contact and communication with other people and help ease some physical symptoms.
During music therapy, you listen to music or use musical instruments under the guidance of a music therapist. Other types of music therapy include singing and writing songs. Music therapy may be used along with other therapies, such as art therapy.
You don’t need to have any musical ability or experience to benefit from music therapy. It is thought that our brain and body respond naturally to sound, including the rhythm and beat of music.
One of the main reasons people with cancer use music therapy is because it makes them feel good and the Music therapy sessions can provide a safe space for children with cancer to explore their fear, anxiety, anger and the range of emotional responses to living with cancer.
Music Therapy helps Children with Cancer to adjust to their prognosis easier, to cooperate and communicate, and to socialise with others.
Naturopathic Medicine is a system of healing that focuses on supporting and stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself. Naturopathic medicine takes a holistic approach, which means that it focuses on the whole person rather than on a person’s illness.
Naturopathic Medicine, which combines modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural therapies, is performed by Naturopathic doctors (NDs) who are trained in and use a wide variety of different therapies.
Naturopathic Medicine Treatments may include special diets and nutritional counselling, fasting, enemas and herbal, vitamin or mineral remedies.
Naturopathic Medicine uses natural, non-toxic therapies to treat the whole person and encourage the self-healing process. Naturopathic clinicians treat a variety of conditions, including digestive issues, respiratory conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer.
Various organisations with Integrative Oncology Services offer Naturopathic Medicine where the focus is on reducing the risk of harmful effects from cancer treatments; to support normal metabolism and digestion during cancer treatment; to manage any side effects, such as nausea or fatigue; and to boost immune function.
Relaxation techniques are basically various methods used to focus the attention on calming the mind and relaxing the muscles and include activities such as visualisation exercises, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing exercises.
Meditation and practices that include meditation with movement, such as yoga and tai chi, can also promote relaxation.
The goal is similar in all; to produce the body’s natural relaxation response, characterised by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being.
Relaxation techniques work very well with children as they are all gentle exercises.
One of the major boons of relaxation training has been in lessening or alleviating chronic, severe pain. Such pain can arise from many different causes, including backache and chronic migraine or tension headaches, diseases such as cancer, and even as the unintended outcome of operations to control pain.
Tai Chi (pronounced Tie Chee) is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines slow, focused body movements, meditation and deep breathing. The relaxed and deliberate movements of Tai Chi help develop balance, coordination and flexibility. Tai Chi is often referred to as “Meditation in Motion.”
Its name is derived from the philosophical term, “Tai Chi,” the first known written reference of which appeared in the Book of Changes over 3000 years ago during the Zhou Dynasty (1100-1221 BC). In this book it says that “in all changes exists Tai Chi, which causes the two opposites in everything.” Tai Chi means the ultimate of ultimate, often used to describe the vastness of the universe.
During a Tai Chi session, one moves slowly from one position to the next without stopping so that your body is in constant motion during the session. Because one must focus on breathing and the movements, tai chi helps focus one’s mind in a form of meditation.
The essential principles of Tai Chi are based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which stresses the natural balance in all things and the need for living in spiritual and physical accord with the patterns of nature. According to this philosophy, everything is composed of two opposite, but entirely complementary, elements of yin and yang, working in a relationship which is in perpetual balance. Tai Chi consists of exercises equally balanced between yin and yang, which is why it is so remarkably effective.
Yoga is an ancient lifestyle practice that uses a series of movements and poses (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation to allow a deeper connection to Self. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj and means “to join” or “union.”
Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga focuses on joining the Body, Mind, Breath and Spirit together in harmony and focus, without mental distractions.
Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge, and although many individuals think of yoga as merely physical exercise, it is a whole body philosophy that creates harmony between your mind, body and spirit and helps clear and calm your mind.
Yoga can improve your strength, mobility, bone health, cardiovascular health, breathing pattern and other physiological systems and decrease pain. Mentally, yoga can enhance well-being, lower your stress response, help manage your pain experience and help you feel more relaxed. People who practice yoga believe that it helps enhance their quality of life.
As with many types of complementary therapy one of the main reasons that people with cancer use yoga is because it makes them feel good.
This page is being updated as we can so please come back frequently to check new information
Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use.
LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.
Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.