The 411 on using Alternative Methods on Battling Cancer-Related Pain

Many cancer patients believe that cancer robbed them of the right to live their lives. They are constantly in pain, in the throes of emotional or physical agony, and are oftentimes too weak to enjoy their day-to-day lives. Their routines are usually thrown out the window, while their diets are oftentimes comprised of drab mealtimes.

At this age and time, most cancer patients are looking for ways to treat cancer, whether it be through traditional methods or alternative methods. However, one thing that many health experts seem to agree upon is the need to curb, or at least manage, cancer-related pain. True enough, debilitating pain is often experienced by cancer patients, particularly after a treatment session. They also have to contend with the physical limitations placed upon them by surgeries and recovery periods.

This is best explained by Mayo Clinic when it writes, “alternative cancer treatments may not play a direct role in curing your cancer, but they may help you cope with signs and symptoms caused by cancer and cancer treatments.” As a method of managing pain brought about by cancer treatment, then alternative methods can be considered as a godsend for a majority of cancer patients.

Battling Cancer-Related Pain

What are “alternative” methods?

This is best defined by the American Cancer Society (ACS) when it explains, “Complementary and alternative are terms used to describe many kinds of products, practices, and systems that are not part of mainstream medicine.” These items are used to “help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life during cancer treatment.” The same source goes on to say that these are usually used alongside medical treatment, and they are called as “‘alternative’ because they are used instead of proven medical treatments.”

The ACS is not alone in thinking that alternative methods can be used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments and management options. Mayo Clinic also said, “Integrating the best of evidence-based complementary and alternative cancer treatments with the treatments you receive from your doctor may help relieve many of the symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.” The reputable medical site even suggested several alternative methods to manage cancer page, as seen below:

If you’re experiencing: Then consider trying:
Anxiety Hypnosis, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques
Fatigue Exercise, massage, relaxation techniques, yoga
Nausea and vomiting Acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnosis, music therapy
Pain Acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnosis, massage, music therapy
Sleep problems Exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga
Stress Aromatherapy, exercise, hypnosis, massage, meditation, tai chi, yoga


Alternative Cancer Management in Medical Literature

It is worth pointing out that these treatments have been vastly explored in the medical community, and are deemed effective by many. An example of this is “Managing Cancer Pain With Nonpharmacologic and Complementary Therapies”, as published on The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in December 2007. In this paper, authors Lynette A. Menefee Pujol, PhD and Daniel A. Monti, MD, write that “Nonpharmacologic interventions are important adjuncts to treatment modalities for patients with cancer pain. A variety can be used to reduce pain and concomitant mood disturbance and increase quality of life.” The authors also make an argument that alternative methods are able to help patients improve the following aspects of their lives:

  • physical well-being;
  • psychological well-being (ie, cognitions, affect, spiritual factors, coping, communication, and the meaning of pain and cancer); and
  • interpersonal well-being (eg, social support, role functioning).

The study also mentioned several methods that have been proven effective in helping cancer patients, such as psychological interventions, cognitive-behavioral interventions, behavioral interventions, and psychosocial interventions. It also talked about complementary medicine, such as traditional Chinese medicine and mind-body techniques. In conclusion, the authors conceded that “Pharmacologic and interventional strategies are first-line modes of treatment for patients with cancer-related pain.” However, they point out that these strategies could be supplemented by alternative methods, adding that “Many of these interventions have little risk and can increase the capability of patients to have control over their pain and their lives, as well as increase their quality of life. In addition, the physician-patient relationship would likely benefit from discussion and incorporation of these strategies into cancer care.

Another example was published by the Indian Journal of Palliative Care, as republished by the U.S. National Library of Medicine—National Institutes of Health. The study, entitled “Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Pain Management: A Systematic Review,” explored how the “Quality of life encompasses the physical, psychosocial, social and spiritual dimensions of a life lived by a person.” Authors Priyanka Singh and Aditi Chaturvedi argue that despite the vast medical advancements in the medical community, “there are 50-70% of cancer patients who suffer from uncontrolled pain and they fear pain more than death.” They also emphasize that while the surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy focus on prolonging the survival of the patient, these procedures oftentimes discount the quality of life of the patients also need to be taken care of.

Like the previous study, they talked about different therapies and stimulation that can improve the quality of life of the patient. In conclusion, the authors urge the medical community to consider using these complementary and alternative methods when it comes to treating or managing pain brought about by cancer. They write that the quality of life of a patient “can be effectively improved with the combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies.”

Indeed, cancer patients already have a long, hard road ahead of them. They have to contend with diagnosis, side effects of the treatment, debilitating fatigue, severe pain, chemotherapy, radiation, and even surgery. If giving them alternative treatments for the pain or as management for the pain, then surely going the unconventional route is worth a try?

What are alternative approaches to managing cancer-related pain?

Now, this is a broad topic on its own, and one we would be glad to expound on in a next blog. We would talk about the more popular forms of treatment, what makes them effective, and how they can help cancer patients in the long run. As Singh and Chaturvedi argued, the quality of life of the patients is also important. Therefore, their treatment and management plans should at least involve some approaches that would focus on making the rest of their lives as manageable and enjoyable as possible.

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