Examining Alternative Cancer Treatments (Part 1): Mind-Body Interventions in Oncology

This is the first of the blog series on complementary and alternative cancer treatments, which is part of an effort to further promote alternative medicine and explore various methods that have been giving countless patients new hope for cancer recovery. The focus of this first post would be on mind-body interventions, an alternative treatment method with a growing number of proponents and followers.

A cancer diagnosis is always a big, unsettling revelation, which often carries with it a complex array of challenges for the patients involved, not to mention their family and the healthcare professionals that will take care of them.

What are Mind-Body Therapies?

According to the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), mind-body therapies are considered as interventions that are used to facilitate the human mind’s capacity to control and affect major bodily functions as well as symptoms.

Mind-body interventions are also commonly called the placebo effect. It is present in various fields of medicine and used in almost every study as a point of comparison for new technologies and drugs.The reason why it is widely used and experimented is because it reflects patients’ expectations, beliefs, and hopes. Its impact can be amplified by various factors, which usually includes how doctors communicate to patients and the beliefs that these medical professionals carry and how they translate to patients.

The goal of mind-body interventions is to introduce patients to this kind of treatment the moment patients receive the diagnosis. This will give patients, who are usually emotionally and psychologically affected by the diagnosis, a sense of focus that can help them get through such a difficult situation. They can also be complementary treatments to traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Major Mind-Body Approaches

  • Relaxation training
  • Guided imagery
  • Social support
  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Interactive Guided Imagery

Each of these therapies have the potential to impact a myriad of psychological, emotional, and physical issues that usually come out during a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. They can make a substantial impact by helping patients and families reduce anxiety and depression, manage their emotions, engage in decision making, reduce adverse effects of cancer treatments and procedures, manage pain, stimulate an immune response, deal with loss, plan for the future, support the will to live, and, if necessary, come to terms with end-of-life issues.