Unlike conventional medicine which generally focuses on the symptoms, complementary therapy takes a much more holistic view of illness and disease. This mind-body-spirit approach works with the the patient, not only to treat the symptoms but also the psychological and spiritual aspects of an illness including stress, anxiety, well-being and self esteem. A holistic approach can also include family and friends, something which is particularly important in the treatment of cancer patients. In conventional medicine control of the a patients condition is often taken over by the medical practitioners with little or no input from the patient.
Modern cancer care has come a long way over the last few years with much grater attention being given to providing a more holistic approach to treatments, particularly regarding palliative care.
Complementary therapy can help cancer patient to take control of their illness.
Hypnotherapy: In the treatment of cancer, hypnotherapy works on many different levels due to mind-body-spirit effects of the nature of cancer.
Pain: One of most common and feared symptoms of cancer is pain and a great deal of effort has been put into the development of powerful chemical analgesics. However, as pain is a subjective process their effectiveness varies from patient to patient and apart from being expensive they bring with them their own list of side effects. Hypnotic techniques such as glove anaesthesia and pain reconfiguration can be used effectively to reduce or even eliminate pain whether caused directly through the cancer itself or by the conventional treatments for cancer and their side effects. Hypnosis can be used safely alongside conventional painkilling drugs and in some cases as an effective alternative to drugs thereby reducing the amount of drugs needed and their associated side effects.
Anxiety: There is a well established link between anxiety and pain. Anxiety is known to have a profound effect on pain levels and hypnosis is one of the the most effective methods in reducing anxiety.
Chemotherapy: Some patients may find the side effects of chemotherapy particularly distressing, so much so that they may even drop out of their treatment programme altogether. Hypnotherapy has been shown to reduce the anticipatory and actual effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting.
Psychological issues: There are many psychological issues that are often experienced by cancer patients which can also be addressed through the use of hypnosis. These generally include the loss of ones identity, self worth, anger, guilt and depression. Many of these concerns are also experienced by family and friends who will also benefit from the use of hypnotherapy thereby increasing the holistic nature of a complementary intervention.
Stress: It’s well known that stress can have a negative effect on the body’s immune system so by reducing stress through the use of hypnosis the body is in a better position to fight the cancer cells and to deal with possible infections caused through the lowering of the immune system during chemotherapy. During a hypnosis session patients are guided into an extremely relaxed state and during the process patients are taught how to use self hypnosis to reach the same relaxed state.
Psychoneuroimmunology: This is the cutting edge of health technology and looks at the interaction between the nervous system and the immune system and the relationship between mental processes and health. By encouraging patients to think about their immune system using visualisation during self hypnosis, patients can use affirmations to strengthen their immune system.
Swedish Massage: Swedish Massage uses stroking, kneading and tapping techniques on the body, usually with the use of oils, and can be used as a full body massage or can focus on particular areas of concern, such as shoulders and back. Swedish Massage uses light and firm strokes along the body to encourage the body’s blood and lymphatic circulation, which not only promotes a feeling of well-being and relaxation, but also helps to eliminate toxins, stimulate the immune system and encourage better circulation.
Massage is a very relaxing, stress-relieving treatment, which is why it is so popular for so many ailments, and particularly for cancer patients who need relief from everyday pains and anxiety. It can also help with symptoms of depression and with insomnia, common ailments of cancer sufferers.
Cancer Research UK report that a study of massage therapy carried out on 1,300 cancer sufferers in the USA showed that massage was effective for the relief of pain, fatigue, sickness, anxiety and depression. Patients who received a 60 minute treatment as opposed to those receiving a 20 minute treatment, felt the benefits more strongly and also felt that the benefits were longer lasting.
Well-known cancer organisations such as Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care and Cancer Research UK recognise the importance of massage as an effective complementary treatment for cancer patients and the benefits as a relaxing and stress-relieving treatment.
Reflexology: Reflexology works on the basis that the body’s main organs and systems are mapped in miniature on the hands and feet. By applying pressure and special massage techniques, the reflexologist can discover and clear areas of congestion, pain and energy blockages, thereby leaving the client feeling refreshed, energized and relaxed. Reflexology can be used to treat a huge range of illnesses and ailments, to reduce blood pressure, to aid relaxation, for stress relief or simply for relaxation.
Reflexology does not try to diagnose or to cure illness; rather it acts as a complementary treatment used alongside traditional medicines and procedures. According to Cancer Research UK, reflexology is the most popular type of complementary therapy treatment amongst cancer sufferers. This may be due to it providing relaxation and stress relief, as anxiety is a major factor for cancer patients who are coming to terms with their illness, coping with the illness or trying to make plans for the future. It could also be due to the pain relief that reflexology can offer as it stimulates and clears the body’s natural processes and pathways, whilst at the same time boosting the immune system. Other people may find that reflexology helps to reduce feelings of sickness associated with the illness and with medical cancer treatments.
Although there is little scientific research to support the benefits of reflexology for cancer sufferers, many, many patients have discovered the benefits for themselves.
Indian Head Massage: Indian Head Massage is a massage of the upper back, arms, neck and shoulders, scalp and face. It is based on a traditional Indian ritual of head and scalp massage used daily for the promotion of healthy hair and general well-being. Indian Head Massage is a complementary therapy widely offered to cancer patients, as it is fantastic for relaxation, stress-relief, tension headaches caused by anxiety and an overall sense of well-being. In addition it can be used after chemotherapy to encourage scalp circulation and hair growth.
Organisations such as Marie Curie Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Haven offer or recommend Indian Head Massage as an effective complementary therapy for cancer patients.