Primary Mesothelioma Treatments
Mesothelioma treatment depends on a patient’s general health and stage of the disease, or how far it has progressed. Your doctor may alternate treatment plans based on other factors as well. Each mesothelioma diagnosis is unique, which means patients will have different treatment plans.
The three primary methods for treating mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Chemotherapy and radiation may sometimes be used in conjunction with surgery, and vice versa. Other emerging treatments that have become more common for fighting mesothelioma are targeted treatments, like immunotherapy. Targeted therapies are generally less invasive than primary methods, like surgery and chemotherapy, but are also newer and may not be as effective. Researchers have only been developing targeted therapies and immunotherapy within the past couple of decades.
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Why Use Complementary Treatments?
The use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) for cancer, more specifically mesothelioma, does not directly kill cancer cells and should not be used in place of other treatments recommended by medical professionals. However, if adequately combined with primary therapies and the advice of a doctor, particular CAMs have been known to help patients feel better and cope with the side effects and symptoms caused by mesothelioma treatment.
The number of patients who seek out complementary and alternative treatments grows every day, especially after a mesothelioma diagnosis. A recent study reported more than one-third of cancer patients research additional treatments. It’s vital that patients seeking alternative methods also inform their cancer-care team, as complementary therapies could interfere with primary treatment, rendering them less effective.
Supplements tend to be the most common type of complementary therapy. These may include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, and amino acids you eat or drink. They take the form of capsules, tablets, pills, powders, and liquids. When taken as intended, herbal supplements can provide added health benefits, but patients must never use them as primary treatment. Some herbal medicines that could help with cancer include, but are not limited to:
This herb has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and helps protect the immune system. You need at least one clove a day or 100-1,000 milligrams of extract for efficacy.
Ginger helps reduce inflammation and ease nausea. It’s best to use fresh ginger root in your meals instead of ginger supplements.
Studies show green tea is a good source of antioxidants. Polyphenols, a chemical in green tea, has been known to help with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support. Drinking up to 3 cups each day can yield positive results.
Flaxseed is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce cancer risk. Ground flaxseed is the best version to take. Sprinkle ground flax seeds on your meals so they’re easier to digest.
A popular Indian spice, turmeric could potentially help the body fight cancer. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has shown promise in killing cancer cells and slowing tumor growth. Add some of this seasoning to your daily meals, or take a supplement for best results.
This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium while ensuring the immune, muscle, and nervous systems run efficiently. 15mcg is the daily recommended amount of vitamin D.
Vitamin E has been known to help patients with lung cancer. This nutrient-dense, powerful antioxidant could help the body remove free radicals and fight cancer cells. 15mcg is the daily advised amount.
Mind and Body-Based Therapy
These therapies are designed to help the patient mentally and physically in their fight against cancer. Their effectiveness depends significantly on patient outlook and receptiveness of the treatment.
Also known as a psychotherapeutic technique, this procedure involves a therapist placing the patient in a hyper-focused state. Once the patient is under, the hypnotist will offer suggestions to minimize distress and improve daily experiences, which can help reduce pain or nausea. Suggestions will differ, depending on the patient. They can even make suggestions for the patient to exercise, eat healthily, or stop smoking.
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Also considered “integrative” therapy, meditation helps the user feel more at-ease and physically relaxed. This method involves the user finding a quiet place, focusing on a breathing pattern or image, and then holding a specific posture or movement. Some meditation experts suggest repeating a word or phrase out loud, referred to as a mantra, while others prefer physical movement.
Music therapists work with healthcare professionals to come up with treatment plans for mesothelioma and other cancer patients. Music can be calming and relaxing, subsequently helping patients express or release emotions during this difficult time. Researchers have linked music therapy to the improvement of a patient’s emotional and physical state. The process can involve anything from listening and moving to music, singing, playing, and discussing music.
Tai Chi and Qigong
Both ancient forms of martial art, Tai Chi and Qigong combine breathing and steady, flowing movement to aid in restoring balance to the body’s energy system. These therapies have been known to help calm the mind and improve stability, reduce muscle and joint pain, promote focus, increase flexibility, and promote clear thinking.
Yoga is a practice that has existed for thousands of years. It involves breathing, exercise, stretching, and meditation. Patients with mesothelioma or other cancers have benefited from yoga because it can help with focusing the mind, improving strength, flexibility, and balance.
Body-based therapies focus on physical treatments to help strengthen the body, alleviate pain, and increase mobility. Each person’s physical ability to withstand these therapies differs and the patient should proceed carefully so as not to overstrain the body.
Acupuncture involves the stimulation of anatomical locations on the skin by penetration with thin, solid, metal needles. This form of complementary therapy can be used to treat a multitude of ailments and symptoms that are associated with mesothelioma. Clinical trials have shown this form of treatment can be useful for reducing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, pain associated with cancer, chemotherapy-related neutropenia (the increased likelihood of infection), cancer fatigue, and radiation side-effects.
This treatment is similar to acupuncture in that it utilizes pressure points, but acupressure involves applying physical pressure to those spots, versus using needles. Studies have shown acupressure can assist mesothelioma patients with dyspnoea, a symptom that generally affects pleural mesothelioma patients and other people with lung illnesses. When a patient is experiencing chronically strained or difficulty breathing, they could be experiencing dyspnoea.
One of the most popular complementary treatments among patients, chiropractic care involves physical techniques that relieve pain and stiffness in joints and muscles. These ailments tend to increase during primary cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation. Chiropractic care can also decrease stress levels while increasing mobility, flexibility, and strength.
It’s important to continue exercising even after a cancer diagnosis to keep the body as healthy as possible. Mesothelioma patients often suffer from fatigue, which can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Maintaining a work-out plan can help combat this too. Your doctor will have specific suggestions for how often and how much to push yourself when working out.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS, involves altering pain perception of mesothelioma patients through the electrical stimulation of A-beta (sensory stimulation) nerve fibers, which subsequently can block other fibers. This treatment has proven beneficial as a complementary therapy to help with cancer pain.
Risks Associated with Complementary Treatments
Some therapies make false promises that lead patients astray. One of the more common promises is that alternative treatments can cure mesothelioma or other cancers. Some make claims the procedure is simple and without harmful side-effects, but this isn’t always the case. Some risks associated with CAMs include:
- If a complementary or alternative treatment is used instead of traditional treatments such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, this could stop or delay remission, allowing cancer to grow and spread.
- Some therapies have caused health problems, including death.
- Certain supplements can increase the risk of cancer or other illnesses, especially if a person takes too much. Some companies don’t follow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, and make false claims or mislabel products.
If complementary and alternative therapies sound like good options for you, have a detailed discussion with your doctor and consider their recommendations. A medical professional is typically able to make the best choices based on your treatment needs, mesothelioma stage, and overall health. Patients may use CAMs in conjunction with primary treatments, but never as a replacement.
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