Comprehensive cancer treatment consists of a multi-disciplinary program of treatment that targets all aspects of the disease. Cancer treatment usually consists of medical treatments to remove cancer cells, such as through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Often, doctors prescribe palliative treatment, to lessen pain, relieve side effects of medical treatment (such as nausea) and help you to maintain your quality of life. Some facilities also include complementary cancer treatment as part of their total health care plan.
Palliative cancer treatment can range from medication, to help ease side effects, such as the nausea that can be caused by medical treatment, to counseling therapy, to help individuals cope with and manage their illness. Complementary cancer treatment refers to any of the complementary therapies used by people that have cancer when used along with conventional, medical treatment.
Medical cancer treatment
Medical cancer treatment is the first, and foremost, type of treatment that an individual with a diagnosis of cancer receives. Medical cancer treatment may include:
- surgery – to remove as much of the cancer as possible
- chemotherapy – drugs that kill cancer cells
- radiation therapy – medical treatment to kill cancer cells
- hormone therapy – to reduce hormone related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer
- stem cell treatment – also known as bone marrow transplant
- biological therapy – to help the body’s immune system recognize and fight cancer
Palliative cancer treatment
Palliative cancer treatment is suitable for people with all types of cancer and is given at any stage of the disease. Usually, a wide range of services are offered, with the aim of providing the patient with relief from physical pain, relief from emotional distress or suffering, psychological support, spiritual support (if wanted) and support for the patient’s family. Palliative cancer treatment may, therefore, include:
- medication to treat pain or the side-effects of medical cancer treatment
- counseling or psychotherapy, to help individuals cope with their diagnosis, treatment and prognosis
- group support or group therapy
- support for the patient’s family members
Complementary cancer treatment
Complementary cancer treatment cannot cure cancer. However, many complementary therapies can have a beneficial effect on a person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Complementary therapies can enhance a person’s sense of well-being and help them to feel more in control of their health during treatment for cancer.
It is also important for you to be aware, when considering complementary cancer treatment options, that many alternative therapies are, as yet, unproven or do not have any scientific basis. Some methods of complementary cancer care may even be dangerous to certain patients.
The following types of complementary cancer treatment are generally thought to be safe for most patients, and studies suggest that they may provide some measureable health benefits.
- acupuncture – useful for pain relief, nausea and vomiting
- aromatherapy – useful for nausea, fatigue, stress and sleep disturbances (medical marijuana may also be used, for some people)
- hypnosis – useful for relief from anxiety and stress
- massage – useful for pain, sleep disturbances, stress and anxiety
- meditation – useful for stress and anxiety, fatigue
- tai chi – useful for fatigue, stress and anxiety
- yoga – useful for fatigue, stress and anxiety
Many medical professionals support the use of some, but not all, complementary therapies, so long as the individual is aware that their chosen therapy will not be able to cure his or her cancer. The patient must be fully aware that he or she will still need medical cancer treatment, in order to have the best chance of fully recovering from the disease.