Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been used by approximately four out of 10 people in the US, according to an article on Webmd.com posted February 18, 2010.
When the diagnosis is breast cancer, many women will augment their doctor's care with some form of complementary treatment.
Conventional treatment for breast cancer is usually lumpectomy or mastectomy surgery, and also radiation or chemotherapy. Sometimes both chemotherapy and radiation are implemented.
Many complementary treatments have been found to relieve some side effects that occur with breast cancer treatments.
Complementary therapy is—by definition—used alongside conventional medicine. Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medicines.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is a branch of the National Institutes of Health. The NCCAM defines five categories of CAM therapy. They are ayurvedic medicine, creative therapy, meditation, naturopathy and yoga.
Ayurvedic medicine, or ayurveda, is an ancient medical system originating in India. According to NCCAM, ayurvedic medicine is a CAM whole medical system. It includes herbs, massage and dietary changes.
Yoga may enhance energy and a bring about a greater sense of well-being.
In 2006, research from the University of Texas indicated that yoga helped women going through radiation for breast cancer. They were able to function better day-to-day, they slept better and they had elevated moods compared to the women who didn't do yoga. Research from Sweden found that art therapy sessions left participating women feeling more in control and better able to cope.
Other types of CAM therapies include reiki, tai chi, qi gong, homeopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Reiki is energy medicine that originated in Japan. It involves no actual physical contact between the patient and practitioner as the practitioner's hands pass over the woman's body. It often increases relaxation and decreases pain.
Tai chi and qi gong are thought to enhance one's life through breathing, gentle movements and meditation. An increasing number of American hospitals are making tai chi available as a complementary treatment to conventional therapy.
Herbs and nutritional supplements may complement conventional medicine. These are used to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. Always talk to your doctor about any natural substances to prevent adverse interactions with medications.
Traditional Chinese Medicine includes acupuncture, which may reduce hot flashes from the anticancer drug Tamoxifen. This drug is used by about half of all women who have breast cancer. Acupuncture may also bring relief from fatigue, pain and vomiting.
Massage and reflexology may relieve stress and symptoms from cancer, and they may also relieve side effects from conventional medicine. Research from 2000 indicated that women getting acupuncture had less nausea than women who did not receive acupuncture treatments.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer and Complementary Therapy
Breast Cancer Treatment
Traditional Chinese Medicine
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Reviewed August 3, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Kate Kunkel