The Healing Benefits of Complementary Medicine

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People with breast cancer often have physical symptoms to deal with on a daily basis, such as pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Some of these come from the disease itself. Others are side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or hormonal therapy.

While scientific research on most complementary therapies is relatively new and the studies are small, early results show that some complementary therapies may help ease physical and emotional symptoms in some people. When combined with conventional medicine, complementary therapies may offer a more integrated approach to healing.

To help doctors and patients understand which complementary therapies are safe and effective for people diagnosed with breast cancer, the Society for Integrative Oncology released guidelines that make recommendations about more than 80 complementary therapies in November 2014.

The Society for Integrative Oncology is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary organization of professionals from different areas of medicine who are dedicated to studying and facilitatingaiding the cancer treatment and recovery process through the use of integrative medicine.

To create the guidelines, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center with colleagues at MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Michigan, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and other institutions in the United States and Canada, analyzed more than 200 studies done between 1990 and 2013 to see which integrative treatments offer benefits and are safe for patients.

Each complementary therapy works on different symptoms. Below are some of the most common symptoms and side effects of breast cancer and treatment and the complementary therapies that have been reported to help.


Physical symptoms

Symptom Complementary Medicine Technique
Pain
Nausea/Vomiting
Fatigue
High blood pressure
Hot flashes
Headache
Muscle tension

Emotional symptoms

Symptom Complementary Medicine Technique
Anxiety/Stress/Fear
Depression

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