Alternative medicine for cancer treatment are defined as a group of different healthcare and medical systems, procedures and products that are not part of the basic definition of conventional medicine( National Cancer Institute). Unlike complimentary alternative medicine, which can be used together with the conventional medicine for management of cancer, alternative medicine is used in solitary, without the inclusion of conventional medicine. In most cases however, people only result to alternative medicine use after conventional medicine has failed to achieve the desired results.
When such happens, the disease is usually at a progressed stage, the effects of alternative medicine are usually minimal. Despite this however, the use of alternative is widespread across the world. In many cases however, it is difficult to make the difference between just what constitutes alternative medicine and complimentary medicine, since what may work for one patient may not necessarily work for another patient. However, before taking up non-conventional medicine, whether as an alternative measure or a complimentary one, cancer patients are advised to confirm with their oncologists
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The revelation that cancer has about 70 percent nutritional or environmental component some decades ago have led to the advent of non-medical healing approaches for cancer. However, since there is no known cure for cancer, just like the conventional medicine used to treat cancer, the alternative medicine either inhibit the growth of cancerous cells or reduce the side effects that arise when one uses a conventional medicines. Alternative medicines are used in various forms. Key among them is herbal remedies, special diets, vitamins and acupuncture.
Other alternative therapies include homeopathy, ayurveda and shark cartilage, mainly used to manage pain after one has undergone conventional cancer treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy. The use of alternative medicine first started in North American but has also spread to other parts of the world as the benefits become more apparent (Rosenbaum, H. Ernest 117) The popularity of the alternative medicine has resulted in academic institutions taking up research to prove or disapprove the effectiveness alternative cancer remedies. The popularity has attracted attentions by governments.
In 1992, the United States government through congress mandated the creation of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM); this office was later elevated to a center status in 1998 and renamed the Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). This federal supported center is mandated with identifying alternative medicines, researching them and disseminating relevant information to the general population. The center is also charged with stipulating diagnostic, preventive and treatment modalities that apply to the alternative medicine sector.
NCCAM works closely with the National Cancer Institute, which also has a cancer complementary &Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) office that is involved in research regarding the role that alternative medicine play in cancer treatment (Rosenbaum 117). Dietary medicine Nutritional supplements and special anti-cancer diets are among the most prominent alternative therapies used for cancer treatment. The reasoning behind nutrition treating cancer thrives from the fact that vegetables and fruit are rich in dietary fiber and hence lowers one’s cancer risk. However, patients are also advised to avoid foods rich in dietary fats.
Beyond what is supported by research findings, some people claim that some diets can actually cure some forms of cancer (Rosenbaum, 118) One of the diets touted as a feasible cancer treatment, although not backed by research is the macrobiotic diet (Horowitz, Joellyn & Mitsuo Tomito). The Macrobiotics diet stresses the importance of avoiding animal proteins. Instead, the diet encourages people to eat meals containing 50 percentage whole grains, 25 percent vegetables, 7. 5 percent beans in addition to the consumption of sea weed and fruits, nuts and seeds.
The diet also stresses the need for the patient to engage in physical exercises, reduce stress, and avoid exposure to pesticides and electromagnetic radiation (Horowitz and Mitsuo). The alleged anti cancer properties for the Macrobiotic diet according the American Institute for Cancer Research may be derived from the fact that consumption of whole cereals minimizes cancer risks in various body parts. For example eating seaweed regularly reduces the risk of breast cancer by acting as an anti-estrogen (Braun, Lesley & Mark Cohen 127)
Diets are especially effective when used to inhibit tumors that respond to hormones. The hormonal agents in the foods are used to control the hormonal levels in the body. Theoretically, the active components in foods and herbs can inhibit or stimulate tumor growth. A good example is the flavonoids found in nuts, fruits, vegetables and drinks such as coffee, tea and red wine. Flavonoid is believed to have free radical scavenging properties, which modify enzymes responsible for activating or detoxifying carcinogens.
When such happens, protein -1, which acts as the transcription factor promoting tumor growth is inhibited and thus the tumor cannot grow (Braun and Marc 128). The only downside to dietary intervention in cancer prevention and treatment usually arise because the flavanoids in everyday food is very low, thus reducing the effect that everyday eating has on tumor growth. According to research carried out by the American Institute of cancer research in collaboration with the World Cancer Research Fund, it is possible that foods high in dietary fiber protect people against colorectal cancer (73).
The research however doubts that these same foods have any protective properties against esophageal cancer. Indirectly however, the reports states that the only link between esophageal cancer and high fiber diet is that the foods have low energy density and thus do not contribute to much weight gain as other foods would. Weight gain is linked to obesity, which is believed to pose higher cancer levels (74) There is scientific probability that non starchy vegetable could protect people against cancers of the Stomach, esophagus, larynx, pharynx and mouth.
However, any protective properties of these vegetables against lung cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer or nasopharynx cancer were ruled out (75). The report further states that evidence supporting alleged protective properties of carrots against cervical cancer was limited, while it is probable that garlic has anti-colorectal cancer properties. Soya products could protect against prostate and stomach cancers, while the risk of larynx, pharynx and mouth cancers reduced with fruit consumption. Folate rich foods lower the risk of colorectal and esophageal cancers, while lycopene rich foods fight prostate cancer
Mind-body exercises The belief that one can influence the physical health by his/her mind is a long ingrained notion in most people’s mind. The conviction that most people holds such believes with has eventually led to the inclusion of mind-body exercises into mainstream medical procedures. Such include prayer and meditation. This belief suggests that a person is only as healthy as they allow themselves to be. Even when sick, the belief suggests that the course that the illness takes is fully dependent on one’s frame of mind (Rosenbaum 119).
In Cancer treatment, the belief maintains that mental toughness plays a major role in overcoming malignancy. While conventional wisdom would suggest that prayer and meditation helps cancer patients handle psychological issues better, thus reducing stress and consequently increasing their survival rates, proponents of the healing powers of mind-body exercises believe otherwise. Though not proven through medical findings, cancer patients at times report getting healing after being prayed for. Proven benefits of the mind and body exercises reduce anxiety, mood disturbances and stress among the patients.
In addition, the exercises help reduce chronic pain, nausea, vomiting and thus helps improve the overall quality of life among cancer patients. Hypnosis is also among the relaxation techniques that cancer patients use to control anxiety, distress, pain or depression (DeVita, T. Vincent Et al 2958) Mindfulness mediation is also among the most common mind-body exercise used by cancer patients. It involves the individual accepting and acknowledging his/her health status. Once this is accomplished, the patients are encouraged to speak out their feelings in a group therapy setting.
With time, the patients learn to deal with stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological needs that arise when one learns that they have cancer. Manual healing This includes touch manipulation techniques a practiced by chiropractic doctors and osteopathic doctors. Hand massage is also effectively used to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety among cancer patients. Another common form of healing is the therapeutic touch common in North America. This too is used on cancer patients to clear their systems through the healer’s hands, which are placed above the patient’s head.
The efficacy of this method is however not backed by any scientific evidence and the psychological benefits that patients acquire are thought to come from the concern expressed by the caregiver during therapy (Rosenbaum 122). Herbal medicines Most Herbal cancer treatment across the world has no scientific backing to prove that they indeed have anti-cancer properties. Despite this, cancer patients continue to use them in the hope that their health concerns will be alleviated. One such example is the Essiac, which is popular in North America.
The product is banned in Canada, but can still be found in shops across the United States. Essiac is made of four herbs namely: Slippery elm, Sorrel, Turkey rhubarb and burdock. Proponents of this herbal remedy claim that Sheep Sorrel is beneficial to the endocrinal system, while Burdock gets rid of free radicals hence purifying the blood. On its part, the slippery elm is said to dissolve mucous deposits on nerve channels, glands, or tissue hence soothing the inflamed organs, while the Indian rhubarb is said to help the liver get rid of toxins (Cassie, M.
Rene). In Europe, a diffirent cancer herbal remedy known as Iscador is also widely used as a folk medicine. Although it is not backed by any scientific evidenced, Iscador is widely used in Europe, something that made European governments to fund studies to prove the effectiveness of the herbal remedy. Aromatherapy This involves the use of essential oils to activate learned memories in a cancer patient. Often practiced during massage, aromatherapy has been known to increase the quality of life for most cancer patients.
Evidence that aromatherapy helps reduce anxiety, blood pressure, pulse rate, pain and depression abounds in the medical circles (Yarbro, C. Henke 604) Antioxidants Research has proved that antioxidants have free radical scavenging properties. Since conventional cancer, treatment uses therapies such as antimebolites, radiation and alkalizing agents, this evidence has made the use of antioxidants more common among recovering cancer patients. Products with high anti oxidant properties include vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta carotene.
Some alternative medicine proponents believe that Vitamin C increases the survival rate for breast cancer patients (Yarbro 606). In addition, Yarbro and others states that men suffering from prostate cancer may have more survival chances by taking vitamin E supplements. It is however notes that the results of same treatment may vary between different person due to the amount of doses that each takes and the duration differences. Shark Cartilage The shark cartilage is got from the spiny-dogfish sharks and has been used as a cancer therapy for centuries now.
The belief that the shark cartilage could heal cancer sprouted from observations to the effect that sharks do not get cancer. The main properties of the shark cartilage that makes it so popular are the potential anti tumor activities. They include the cartilage’s ability to stimulate the immune system, ability to kill cells directly and angiogenesis. Despite its popularity, health practitioners against using shark cartilages as a form of cancer treatment claiming that there is insufficient evidence t o support its efficacy or safety (Yabro 608).
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