Art Therapy for Cancer Patients

September 4, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Art therapy is a recognized form of complementary treatment for cancer. Art not only helps patients deal with their experiences; but it is proven to assist in pain management and stress reduction.

ScienceDaily reports in this 2006 article on art therapy titled: Art Therapy Can Reduce Pain And Anxiety In Cancer Patients

A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that art therapy can reduce a broad spectrum of symptoms related to pain and anxiety in cancer patients. In the study done at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, cancer patients reported significant reductions in eight of nine symptoms measured by the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) after spending an hour working on art projects of their choice.

Art therapy is considered a safe therapy when lead or monitored by a trained therapist who can guide the patient in self expression and working through painful emotions.

From the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center, Moores Medical Center:

How is art therapy thought to improve wellness and optimize overall health? Proponents of this therapy believe that the uninhibited expression of feelings and emotions through art may help to release the fear, anxiety and anger many cancer patients experience. Art can also be viewed as a distraction to the pain and discomfort of disease, allowing patients relief from stress and increased well-being. By relieving stress, the body’s immune system and, therefore, resistance to disease may be heightened.

For children art therapy can help them express concepts they are unable to verbalize.

Therapists often work with patients in groups or one on one, not just creating art but also discussing art to express feelings and increase awareness. Art therapy can also be considered a non verbal mode of communicating to others and to one’s self.

Check out this blog on Art Therapy!

and visit the Mayo Clinic site for a video: Art Therapy for Stress Management.

Battling Books:

Art Therapy and Cancer Care (2005)

Mistletoe for Cancer?

May 26, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER


Mistletoe leaves and twigs have historically been considered a herbal remedy. While mistletoe berries and leaves are toxic and can cause death depending on the amount ingested; extract from the plant is currently being studied for its therapeutic properties. Mistletoe plant extract is considered to be a complementary cancer treatment by many researchers.

Per the National Cancer Institute:

Mistletoe extract is studied as a possible anticancer agent because it has been shown to:

  • Boost the immune system.
  • Kill cancer cells in the laboratory.
  • Protect the DNA in white blood cells,including cells that have been exposed to DNA-damaging chemotherapy drugs.

mistletoe-exract.jpgIscador is a trade name for a mistletoe extract– other trade names include, Helixor, Eurixor, and Isorel. The extract was publicized when actress Suzanne Somers revealed that after surgery to remove a cancerous lump, followed by radiation, she took Iscador to boost her immune system.

The extract has been used widely in Europe. Mistletoe requires a prescription and should always be given under medically supervised conditions due to the potential for anaphylactic reactions. Mistletoe extract is generally given as an injectable at the tumor site for ten to fourteen days. Warmth at the injection site and flu like symptoms are some of the reported side effects. Mistletoe extract should not be used by pregnant women.

Per the American Cancer Society:

“Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) has approved mistletoe as palliative therapy for malignant tumors (to help treat symptoms, not cure disease).”

Use of Mistletoe in the United States:

Per the National Cancer Institute:

“The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition. The FDA does not allow injectable mistletoe extracts to be imported or used except for clinical research.”

In the U.S. doctors can legally order the extract directly from Europe, though it is not approved for sale in the United States.

Clinical Trials in the U.S. involving Mistletoe:

While more than thirty clinical trials have been conducted in Europe involving mistletoe, the National Cancer Institute reports flaws in many of the studies.

Currently the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is sponsoring an ongoing study:

Gemcitabine Combined With Mistletoe in Treating Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors. Visit the site for more information.

More Information on Mistletoe Therapy:

University of California, San Diego Medical Center, Moores Cancer Center

The Regional Cancer Center

The U.S. Pharmacist

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

The Healing Power of Music

April 10, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

Music has the amazing ability to turn emotions on and off, to transport us to another place and yes, to heal.

Music transcends race, sex, religion and boundaries of time and space.

What’s playing on your iPod, your computer, or in the background of your mind?

Right now I’m listening to Enya’s Paint the Sky with Stars, because to me the music translates to calming empowerment.

How does music factor into complementary cancer therapy?


From the American Music Therapy Association, the definition of music therapy:

Music Therapy is an established health care profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • promote wellness
  • manage stress
  • alleviate pain
  • express feelings
  • enhance memory
  • improve communication
  • promote physical rehabilitation

Combining music and science to promote healing and wellness, is the philosophy of The Institute of Music and Neurological Function.

The Institute utilizes psychotherapy trained music therapists to facilitate with the goal of facilitating self-expression and providing emotional support. Music becomes a method of communication, a tool of expression and a coping mechanism.

Goals of a this type of emotional support therapy include reduced pain, relaxation, stimulated communication and learned coping skills.

The Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy located on the campus of NYU and affiliated with a graduate program in music therapy, offers programs for children, adolescents and adults to cope with life stressors and to provide therapeutic self expression.

Stanford University’s Center for Music Research and Acoustics released some preliminary symposium results stating that “music with a strong beat stimulates the brain and ultimately causes brainwaves to resonate in time with the rhythm, research has shown. Slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with hypnotic or meditative states. Faster beats may encourage more alert and concentrated thinking.”

Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings shares “As a result of a brain tumor, my patient Greg has not been able to retain any new memories since the 1970s. But if we talk about or play his favorite Grateful Dead songs, his amnesia is bypassed. He becomes vividly animated and can reminisce about their early concerts.” In 2006 Dr. Sacks received the Music Has Power Award given to individuals whose accomplishments have brought new understanding to the use of the power of music to heal and awaken.

Music for pain? A SciencCentral News video shares that music can boost the effectiveness of pain medications, reducing pain up to 31%.

Don Campbell’s The Mozart Effect Resource Center is all about the “transformational powers of music, health, education and well being.”

Campbell’s book, The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit.

Publisher description: Stimulating, authoritative, and often lyrical, The Mozart Effect has a simple but life-changing message: music is medicine for the body, the mind, and the soul. Campbell shows how modern science has begun to confirm this ancient wisdom, finding evidence that listening to certain types of music can improve the quality of life in almost every respect. Here are dramatic accounts of how music is used to deal with everything from anxiety to cancer, high blood pressure, chronic pain, dyslexia, and even mental illness.

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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.