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Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) Treatments

Once dismissed by physicians as quack medicine, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is now embraced by the medical community as supportive, if not helpful, in the treatment of mesothelioma.

Doctors don’t just recommend CAM medicines but many are now setting up CAM practices alongside their conventional medical practice to give patients the widest range of options. Many mesothelioma patients opt just for CAM treatments, especially those in the later stages of the disease. Some CAM treatments are known to relieve stress and pain. Overall, they are a great way to approach your mesothelioma treatment with the mind-body approach -- the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind and the body to promote healing.

There is a difference between complementary and alternative medicine:

Complementary Medicine -- Used to complement, or accompany, conventional treatments and are not aimed at curing the disease. An example of complementary medicine is massage therapy in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation.

Alternative Medicine -- This is used instead of conventional or mainstream medications with the aim at curing or eliminating the disease. It has its roots in complementary medicine and is often discouraged by mainstream physicians.

Popular Mind-Body Treatments

Key studies show that the connection between the mind, body and healing is very real. Researchers have found that positive attitudes can go a long way. There are several complementary treatments available that are aimed at promoting the mind-body experience:

  • Acupuncture -- This uses thin needles inserted at various points around the body to stimulate energy and good health. It is often used to help with chronic pain. Medical doctors nationwide are now practicing this traditional Chinese medicine in addition to their conventional practice.
  • Chiropractic Medicine -- Chiropractors manipulate the spine to promote better body alignment. This is particularly useful in lower back, neck and shoulder pain.
  • Guided Relaxation -- This includes guided imagery, breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation. It is aimed at easing the body into a relaxed state for an extended period.
  • Massage Therapy -- Practitioners, called massage therapists, manipulate the soft tissue for healing and relaxation.
  • Meditation -- This includes mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation and teaches patients to focus attention.
  • Movement Therapies -- This includes yoga, tai chi, Pilates and other Eastern and Western movement-based approaches that help clear the mind and strengthen the body.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Uses In Real Life

While using CAM treatments might not be for everybody, there have been some well-documented success stories:

Judy Glezinski -- In her biography, “Surviving Mesothelioma -- Making Your Own Miracle” Glezinski’s CAM journey is well documented. Diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at age 48, she initially underwent surgery to remove the tumors but they returned several years later. As a secondary line of defense, she underwent radiation for pain relief. She was told to undergo chemotherapy as well, but opted out. From there, she had regular massages, reflexology (a form of massage) and drank copious amounts of mangosteen juice. She also continued her daily active regime that included gardening. Glezinski also relied heavily in her faith in God and her positive attitude. Glezinski died in 2009, nearly 20 years after her initial diagnosis.

“Judy could have spent the days lying in bed waiting for something good to happen. Instead, she got up and got active and continued to take part in the activities that had always been most dear to her.”

Peter Kraus -- An Australian author, Peter Kraus is the longest living mesothelioma survivor. Kraus was born in a Nazi concentration camp and exposed to asbestos in his younger years while working near an asbestos processing plant. He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1997 with only weeks to live. He was given the option to undergo surgery and chemotherapy as palliative treatments but instead chose a more natural path. In his book “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient's Guide,” Kraus wrote that his diagnosis prompted him to overhaul his diet, eating whole foods, juicing fruits and vegetables and cutting out sugar.

Kraus said he was determined to do all he could to live a healthier lifestyle. He read inspirational books about healing, learned to meditate and reduced stress in his life. He leaned heavily on his spirituality. In 2013, Kraus celebrated his 16th year following his diagnosis.

“The doctor giving the bad news may fail to mention that there are reasons for hope,” he wrote. “Few doctors tell the patient that each case is unique and there is a degree of unpredictability in the way the illness will develop. In the tense situation of the consultation at the time of the diagnosis, it is easy to forget that people have recovered from most types of cancer.”

Sources:

  1. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name?” Retrieve from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam
  2. The Center For Mind-Body Medicine. Research. Retrieved from http://cmbm.org/research/
  3. Martin, Laura. “Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Overview.” WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-alternative-medicine?page=2
  4. Kember, Lorraine,et al. “Surviving Mesothelioma -- Making Your Own Miracle.” 2010.
  5. Kraus, Peter. “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient's Guide.” 2005.
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