Updated: Jun 17, 2018
Which Alternative Treatment is Right for You?
A breast cancer diagnosis can be a dizzying experience. And the internet can compound that. You’re reaching for a solution, some combination of actions, that’s going to help you conquer this and restore your world to its rightful order. But what?
How can you know with any certainty what your oncologist is prescribing is going to be completely effective—especially when you don’t have to look far to find stories where it wasn’t? And what, then, should you be doing beyond the surgery, the radiation, the chemotherapy?
The questions can pile up quickly, a lot faster than the answers will come. What you’re looking for, though, a proven, golden formula that’s going to eradicate your breast cancer and provide you with total peace of mind of mind for the rest of your days, doesn’t exist. The sooner you embrace that, the more frustration you’ll save yourself.
That’s not to imply, however, that this disease is out of your control. Alternative medicine is a catchall term for a wide array of treatments that likely won’t be acknowledged by your oncologist (and especially your insurance provider) unless you’re the one bringing them up in conversation. They range from the brand-new and wildly speculative to the ancient, but still fairly unknown. We’ll explore a couple of the most prominent kinds here.
Understand, each should be approached with caution and as a complement, not a replacement, to your oncologist’s prescribed course of treatment. Before beginning anything, discuss it first with your oncologist to ensure that it won’t conflict with your primary therapy. Know, too, that none of these are a magic elixir, nor are any of the others that aren’t discussed here. What may help one woman can have little effect on another.
Very basically, free radicals damage cells. Antioxidants fend off free radicals, protecting your cells and, in turn, lowering your risk of cancer—or aiding your fight against it. That’s why antioxidant-rich supplements have become a popular alternative treatment for most cancers.
Their effectiveness, however, is questionable. They may also conflict with prescribed medications. Your best bet is gradually incorporate more foods into your diet that are naturally high in antioxidants, like wild blueberries, dark chocolate, and kidney beans. You’ll reap the greatest benefits while also being able to monitor their interaction with your medications.
Mind and body therapies
Mind and body therapies encompass a wide array of practices, all of them essentially aimed at achieving a meditative state. The power of consistent meditation has been proven at great length. For starters, it reduces stress, which strengthens the immune system and improves sleep quality, all of which form the foundation of an effective recovery.
Some, like art and music therapy and tai chi, require the assistance of a licensed practitioner, at least in the early going. But others, such as aromatherapy, yoga, even simple meditation, can be performed in the comfort of your own home. Just find a good YouTube tutorial and follow along.
Acupuncture dates back thousands of years, though the exact nature of how and what it helps is just beginning to be studied by western medicine. Preliminary research has shown it to be an effective means of reducing a host of symptoms, including:
Which, of course, makes it an attractive therapy for breast cancer patients. But acupuncture is not without risk. It can cause—on rare occasion—infection, bleeding and lymphedema, swelling caused by excess fluid.
Whatever the avenue you choose, research it carefully (and as far from chat rooms as you can manage) and discuss it with your oncologist first. Even if it only serves as a temporary distraction, that’s sometimes enough. But you don’t want to undertake anything that’s going to undo your prescribed therapy.