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You have many choices to make before, during, and after your lung cancer treatment. One choice you may be thinking about is complementary and alternative medicine. We call this CAM, for short.

People with cancer may use CAM to:

  • Help cope with the side effects of cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain, and fatigue
  • Comfort themselves and ease the worries of cancer treatment and related stress
  • Feel that they are doing something more to help with their own care
  • Try to treat or cure their cancer

Making Choices

It's natural to want to fight your cancer in any way you can. There is a lot of information available, and new methods for treating cancer are always being tested, so it may be hard to know where to start.

This information may help you understand if CAM is right for you. Many people try CAM therapies during cancer care. CAM does not work for everyone, but some methods may help you manage stress, nausea, pain, or other symptoms or side effects.

The most important message is to talk to your doctor before you try anything new. This will help ensure that nothing gets in the way of your cancer treatment.

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

CAM is any medical system, practice, or product that is not thought of as standard care. Standard medical care is care that is based on scientific evidence. For cancer, it includes chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, and surgery.

Complementary Medicine

Complementary medicine is used along with standard medical treatments. One example is using acupuncture to help with side effects of cancer treatment.

Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical treatments. One example is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of a method that a cancer specialist (an oncologist) suggests.

Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine is a total approach to care that involves the patient's mind, body, and spirit. It combines standard medicine with the CAM practices that have shown the most promise. For example, some people learn to use relaxation as a way to reduce stress during chemotherapy.

Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

We are learning about CAM therapies every day, but there is still more to learn. Consumers may use the terms "natural," "holistic," "home remedy," or "Eastern medicine" to refer to CAM. However, experts use five categories to describe it.

Mind-Body Medicines

These are based on the belief that your mind is able to affect your body. Some examples are:

  • Meditation: Focused breathing or repetition of words or phrases to quiet the mind
  • Biofeedback: Using simple machines, the patient learns how to affect certain body functions that are normally out of one's awareness (such as heart rate)
  • Hypnosis: A state of relaxed and focused attention in which the patient concentrates on a certain feeling, idea, or suggestion to aid in healing
  • Yoga: Systems of stretches and poses, with special attention given to breathing
  • Imagery: Imagining scenes, pictures, or experiences to help the body heal
  • Creative outlets: Such as art, music, or dance

Biologically Based Practices

This type of CAM uses things found in nature. This includes dietary supplements and herbal products. Some examples are:

  • Vitamins
  • Herbs
  • Foods
  • Special diets

A note about nutrition: It's common for people with lung cancer to have questions about different foods to eat during treatment. Yet it's important to know that there is no one food or special diet that has been proven to control cancer. Too much of any one food is not helpful, and may even be harmful. Because of nutrition needs you may have, it's best to talk with the doctor in charge of your treatment about the foods you should be eating.

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices

These are based on working with one or more parts of the body. Some examples are:

  • Massage: Manipulation of tissues with hands or special tools
  • Chiropractic care (ky-ro-PRAK-tik): A type of manipulation of the joints and skeletal system
  • Reflexology (ree-flex-AH-lo-gee): Using pressure points in the hands or feet to affect other parts of the body

Energy Medicine

Energy medicine involves the belief that the body has energy fields that can be used for healing and wellness. Therapists use pressure or move the body by placing their hands in or through these fields. Some examples are:

  • Tai Chi (ty-CHEE): Involves slow, gentle movements with a focus on the breath and concentration
  • Reiki (RAY-kee): Balancing energy either from a distance or by placing hands on or near the patient
  • Therapeutic touch (thair-a-PYU-tik): Moving hands over energy fields of the body

Whole Medical Systems

These are healing systems and beliefs that have evolved over time in different cultures and parts of the world. Some examples are:

  • Ayurvedic medicine (eye-yer-VAY-dik): A system from India emphasizing balance among body, mind, and spirit
  • Chinese medicine: Based on the view that health is a balance in the body of two forces called yin and yang
  • Acupuncture (AK-yoo-PUNK-cher): is a common practice in Chinese medicine that involves stimulating specific points on the body to promote health, or to lessen disease symptoms and treatment side effects
  • Homeopathy (home-ee-AH-puh-thee): Uses very small doses of substances to trigger the body to heal itself
  • Naturopathic medicine (na-chur-o-PATH-ik): Uses different methods that help the body naturally heal itself

Talk with Your Doctor Before You Use CAM

Some people with cancer are afraid that their doctor won't understand or approve of the use of CAM. But doctors know that people with cancer want to take an active part in their care. They want the best for their patients and often are willing to work with them.

Talk to your doctor to make sure that all aspects of your cancer care work together. This is important because things that seem safe, such as certain foods or pills, may interfere with your cancer treatment.

Educational information provided by The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Internet site.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2009 20:10
 
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