Holistic Therapies for Cancer Patients


As opposed to Western medicine, which is focused on the ailment, holistic therapies focus on the whole person. Western medicine has used double-blind studies to prove the efficacy of medicines and medical procedures, and has been remarkably successful. Where it falls short is that not every ailment will respond to drugs or surgery.


Should holistic therapy be part of your cancer treatment program? It’s a complex question, and there are several factors to weigh in your decision. Here’s what you need to know to help you decide what’s right for you, courtesy of Teal Diva.


Options Worth Considering

There seem to be an ever-increasing number of holistic options available to cancer patients, and sorting them out can be confusing. Ask your doctor if he or she suggests any complementary treatments, and if not, ask if they’d be open to you exploring some options such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, tai chi, cannabinoids, and herbal supplements.


See to the Basics First

Holistic therapies treat the entire person, rather than individual symptoms. Establishing a solid foundation of proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and appropriate amounts of gentle exercise is a good way to start. If you are struggling with any of these, speak with your health care provider about a referral to a nutritionist, physical therapist or other specialist.


Cannabidiol and delta-8. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is commonly available to cancer patients as an over-the-counter therapeutic option. It appears to offer some help with issues like anxiety, insomnia, pain, and inflammation. Delta-8 is a milder form of THC that’s synthesized from federally legal hemp and it appears to have benefits, with some promise for treating pain, anxiety, and/or nausea. As Well and Good explains, it’s typically best to vet CBD producers as much as possible. Find those who are transparent with their testing and source their ingredients in the U.S. for best results.


Medical marijuana. If you live in a state where cannabis is legal for medical purposes, your doctor can write you a prescription to buy it at a dispensary. There are several edible or topical products for getting your dose. And since smoking creates carcinogens and can’t be tolerated in most medical settings, vaporizers reduce the harm of smoking by cooking the cannabis at a temperature below combustion. Vaporizers don’t actually burn the cannabis, but the beneficial molecules are boiled off and can be inhaled more safely than smoking.


Acupuncture and acupressure. Acupuncture and acupressure can help with pain, insomnia, dry mouth, nausea, and anxiety, which may be side effects of other cancer treatments.


Massage. Therapeutic massage can help with relaxation, pain management, anxiety, and stress. In addition, massage can lower blood pressure, improve immunity, and reduce scarring and swelling after surgery.


Meditation. Meditation reduces stress and improves well-being. With so many claims of positive effects it’s easy to be skeptical…until you’ve tried it. Meditation quiets the mind and helps distance us from all the distractions of modern life. While it can be useful to have a dedicated meditation room, really all you need is a comfortable chair. Getting comfortable with solitude can also have the beneficial side-effect of getting us more in touch with our creative side. Meditation has also been documented to be beneficial in managing stress, anxiety, and pain during cancer treatment. In other words, it’s worth adopting for a while while you undergo treatment.


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Save Your Receipts

Unfortunately the medical bills might be the worst part of the whole ordeal. Even if you’ve got good insurance, you’re going to have lots of deductibles and copays. While you might go to one hospital or cancer center for treatment, you’ll likely pay several different entities for service: the anesthesiologist, each specialist, the rehabilitation center, and on and on. Be sure to save your receipts, and to organize them in a way that will make it easier to access them when tax time comes. Treatment is expensive any way you slice it, so it’s best to save where you can.


Touch Base with Your Doctor

The last thing you want to do is set yourself up to have problems with your cancer treatment program. Bear in mind the potential side effects from various herbal, vitamin, or cannabis products and how they might help or hurt your situation, as well as potential drug interactions. Just like with any new therapy, it’s in your best interests to discuss the pros and cons with your health care team before you commit.


Cancer and cancer treatments are complex issues. Sorting all the details can be challenging, and it’s best to make informed decisions. Do some research, talk with your medical team, and make the choices that are best for your health.


Teal Diva focuses on the mental and emotional health of those affected by gynecologic cancer. Our goal is to meet our community where they are by connecting with newly diagnosed women, survivors, and their support network. Questions? Please scroll down to fill out our contact form.