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Complementary and Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments

When diagnosed with mesothelioma, the first round of treatments that most doctors will recommend are conventional – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But for those who are in the later stages of the disease, have exhausted all of their options or simply want to supplement their conventional treatment, complementary and alternative treatments (CAM) are increasingly becoming popular.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines CAM as a group of diverse medical health practices and treatments that are not generally considered conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is meant to complement, or go alongside, conventional treatments. Alternative medicine is aimed at being a substitute for conventional treatment.

Types of CAM

There are a variety of different types of CAM used depending on the patient’s needs and abilities. Generally, there are three basic categories:

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices – This focuses on the movement of the body and its systems, including the bones, joints, muscles, soft tissue, circulatory and lymphatic systems. This includes spinal manipulation techniques performed by health care providers that include chiropractors, physical therapists and naturopathic physicians.

Mind-Body Medicine – This focuses on the body’s interaction with the mind and how the two work together. This includes mediation, yoga and acupuncture. Also included in this are hypnotherapy, tai chi and guided imagery.

Natural Products – This focuses on botanical medicines, vitamins, minerals and other over the counter supplements, commonly referred to as dietary supplements. This also includes probiotics, which are supposed to have beneficial effects.

Other uncategorized CAM practices include movement therapies, like Pilates, and traditional Chinese medicine. Our patient advocates can help you sort through the many types of CAM treatments and protocols so you can further discuss it with your doctor.

Cautions When Using CAM

While many mesothelioma doctors encourage their patients to explore the world of CAM, others are very cautious. Even though integrative medicine, which combines conventional medicine and CAM therapies, is widely used, the treatments must go through extensive patient testing first. Some natural products are known to interact with conventional medicines, making the conventional medicine less potent. It’s vital to discuss any of your CAM treatment plans with your treatment team before starting.

The National Cancer Institute recommends that all CAM therapies be fully evaluated through clinical trials and patient testing before they become part of the standard protocol for any cancer treatment. Some of the current CAM clinical trials in progress right now include a study of acupuncture to preventing dry mouth in patients receiving radiation in the head and neck area and the effects of tai chi versus structured exercise on physical fitness and stress reduction in cancer survivors.

CAM and Mesothelioma

Although CAM treatment practices are not widely accepted, there have been some personal success stories. Judy Glezinski, author of “Surviving Mesothelioma,” underwent conventional treatments for pleural mesothelioma and followed several CAM treatments. She utilized prayer, meditation and regular massages to keep herself calm. She found benefits from reflexology, daily drinks of mangosteen juice and regular exercise.

“Treatments such as these may be taken with a grain of salt or embraced whole-heartedly,” she wrote. “Their validity is entirely in the eye of the beholder.”

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