Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

September 17, 2008 by  
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Massage therapy is another recognized complementary and alternative therapy for cancer patients.

U.S. News & World Report, Health, September 16, 2008, shares information on a study connecting massage therapy and cancer pain relief and mood.

Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer

Reporting in the Sept. 16 Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that people who received massage from a licensed, specially trained therapist reported greater improvements in pain and mood symptoms than did people who received simple touch

The results however were short lasting and while it made cancer patients feel better there was no long term effect.

So, let’s take a deeper look at massage therapy. (that’s a pun!)

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The Role of Acupuncture in Cancer Treatment

August 25, 2008 by  
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Acupuncture is used as both an alternative and a complementary cancer therapy and is utilized for cancer and associated treatment symptoms.

Alternative therapy is a plan of care that is utilized instead of the traditionally recommended therapy. Complementary therapy works hand-in-hand with traditional therapies. For more information on complementary and alternative therapies for cancer see the Battling Cancer archives.

The American Cancer Society lists important guidelines to understanding these therapies to help the cancer patient make informed decisions.

Mayo Clinic lists acupuncture in it’s list of recommended alternative treatments saying :

“Alternative cancer treatments can’t cure your cancer, but they may provide some relief from signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Common signs and symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress may be lessened by alternative treatments.”

In fact many cancer treatment facilities offer acupuncture as part of their complementary and alternative therapy programs.

Check out MD Anderson’s CancerWise for an in depth interview with an acupuncture physician, The American Cancer Society site on acupuncture.

So how does acupuncture work? There are several theories.

The Western culture theory of acupuncture is that it stimulates nerves, muscles and connective tissues also stimulating the blood flow and stimulating the body’s endorphins to relieve pain or relieves pain via the gate theory. The gate theory is that of not removing pain but of blocking pain.

The Eastern theory of acupuncture is that energy flows through the body at meridians. When these meridians are blocked pain and illness ensue. Acupuncture restores this flow and energy harmony. This Youtube video explains this theory.

Acupuncture sessions require the placement of sterile needles which are inserted at key points and remain in place for approximately twenty minutes.

Acupuncture Facts from the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture:

  • Non-physician acupuncturists are required by law in most states to use disposable one-time-use sterilized needles. Physicians because of their experience and background in infection control have the prerogative of using re-usable sterilized needles. These needles would need to be sterilized in the same way as any surgical instrument.
  • While the degree of beneficial results from acupuncture treatment is dependent on various clinical factors such as presenting symptoms, clinical staging, timing of the encounter in the course of the illness, areas of involvement, the answer to the opening question “can acupuncture help me?” is, in all probability, that it can help in the care of the cancer patient.
  • Acupuncture treatments vary because of the wide variations in the styles of acupuncture performed. Generally three to fifteen needles will be placed. Costs vary depending on locale and practitioners training and experience.

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Essiac as a Cancer Therapy

August 12, 2008 by  
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A very popular complementary and alternative cancer treatment, said to be used by 16 % of cancer patients in Canada is Essiac.

The National Cancer Institute describes Essiac as a herbal tea mixture that contains burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm bark.

Flor-Essence and Essiac are the trademarked names for this Essiac based herbal antioxidant tea compound or tonic.

Essiac dosage is generally one ml, taken one to three times a day on an empty stomach. Side effects are nausea, and diarrhea.

Essiac is advertised as a cellular regenerator and detoxifier. For cancer patients it is utilized to reduce tumor size, and as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

The secret original formula for Essiac was developed by the Canadian nurse Rene Caisse (1888-1978). in Essiac is Caisse spelled backwards. Her formulas was said to be from a traditional Ontario Ojibwa Native American remedy. Caisse administered the formula orally and by injection to cancer patients during the 1920s and 1930s at her free clinic.

In the 1970s, the formula was sold to Resperin Corporation Ltd. with an agreement to begin clinical trials on the product.

Per the American Cancer Society: “There have been no published clinical trials in conventional medical journals showing the effectiveness of Essiac in the treatment of cancer. Some of the specific herbs contained in the mixture have shown some anti-cancer effects in laboratory experiments. However, available scientific evidence does not support its use for the treatment of cancer in humans.”

No completed human clinical trials have been documented.

According to the Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center “data on Essiac is conflicting but it is known that Essiac can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs. Cancer patients should use caution.”

Today Essiac products are sold as a herbal supplement and not as a drug. Essiac is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Per NCCAM (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) “In the United States, herbal and other dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods. This means that they do not have to meet the same standards as drugs and over-the-counter medications for proof of safety, effectiveness, and what the FDA calls Good Manufacturing Practices.”

Shark Cartilage Therapy

July 28, 2008 by  
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Shark Cartilage Therapy involves the use of shark cartilage as a food supplement. Cartilage is a connective tissue. Found in the head and fins of sharks, it is ground into powder and used in capsule form. Many people prefer the enema form due to the size and taste of the capsules. It can also be injected Bovine cartilage is another type of therapy not to be confused with shark cartilage.

Shark Cartilage Therapy is considered a form of antiangiogenesis.

Antiangiogenesis or anti-angiogenesis is a type of therapy that uses pharmacology or other substances to stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels.

Antiangiogenesis agents don’t target the cancer tumor; their focus is the blood vessels that nourish the cancer tumors, literally starving the tumors.

Dietary supplements are available and marketed as Carticin, Cartilade, and BeneFin. These supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Per NCCAM (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) “In the United States, herbal and other dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods. This means that they do not have to meet the same standards as drugs and over-the-counter medications for proof of safety, effectiveness, and what the FDA calls Good Manufacturing Practices.”

In 2004 the FDA did order the manufacturers of BeneFin to stop advertising the product as a cancer cure and to refund customers.

Primary side effects of cartilage include alterations in taste.

The National Cancer Institute also reports the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Higher than normal blood sugar
  • General weakness.
  • A higher than normal blood calcium levels

Neovastat (AE-941) is a new drug from highly purified extract of shark cartilage. Neovastat is regulated by the FDA and is not available to the public, as it is still undergoing investigative research. Used as a liquid form it may be more readily utilized by the body than other forms which are thought to be simply excreted.

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Exercise and the Cancer Patient

April 30, 2008 by  
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The Mayo Clinic lists 11 alternative cancer therapies, three of which are exercise, yoga and Tai Chi. Per the Mayo Clinic: “Alternative cancer treatments won’t play any role in curing your cancer, but they may help you cope with signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Common signs and symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, difficulty sleeping, and stress may be lessened by alternative treatments. ”

What’s Yoga? Yoga is a mind and body therapy that includes gentle stretches, breathing practices, and progressive deep relaxation. Visit the Yoga Center site for information on the many types of yoga.

What’s Tai Chi? A form of exercise that utilizes slow gentle movements and deep relaxed breathing. A weight bearing exercise it builds strength, muscle tone, improves circulation, balance, flexibility, posture, coordination and range of motion. For more information on Tai Chi and cancer and limited research studies see the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center site. While there are only minimal differences between yoga and Tai Chi; Tai Chi is also a martial art.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.