Chapter 14 - Complementary Therapies
All you need is deep within you
waiting to unfold and reveal itself.
All you have to do is be still and take time to seek
for what is within, and you will surely find it.
— Eileen Caddy
“Traditional” or conventional treatment for breast cancer can include surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy), chemotherapy, radiation and other medical treatments such as immunotherapy, hormonal and biologic therapy. These treatments have been studied and evaluated for years and, to date, provide the best chance for survival. Conventional medicine primarily addresses the “physical” aspect of the disease, which is very important.
Complementary therapies tend to the needs of a woman’s mind or spirit—a “whole person” healing approach. Many hospitals refer to the use of conventional medicine combined with certain complementary therapies—for which there is good, scientific evidence on safety and effectiveness—as “integrative medicine.”
Some researchers believe that our mind has the power to overcome physical illness or pain. In fact, as breast cancer survivors, it is easy to see how a positive attitude and a good sense of humor can make a bad experience easier and more tolerable. When you can do something to help yourself, you feel empowered. You are able to secure some sense of “control” in a situation that often seems out of control and out of your hands.
Complementary therapies serve as additions to conventional medicine and may help relieve symptoms, reduce stress and enhance well being. They allow you the opportunity to participate in something that makes you feel better, calmer, more at peace and in control during the stressful times of treatment or simply in your daily life as a survivor.
We do not suggest that use of any of these therapies will cure breast cancer, or necessarily slow its progress. However, their place in your daily life as a breast cancer patient or survivor may be very valuable.
It is very important to discuss the use of complementary therapies with your doctor or someone on your healthcare team. Not all complementary therapies are supported by physicians, and many complementary therapies have not been tested scientifically. Others, such as vitamins or herbal supplements, may interfere with the effectiveness of your chemotherapy treatments and could be harmful.
Also, keep in mind that some complementary therapy treatments may not be covered by your health insurance provider. It is a good idea to find out what is covered. Some hospitals and cancer centers in North Carolina offer complementary therapies, and these are more likely to be covered by your health insurance. Check with your local hospital, cancer center, or cancer supportive care center to find out what programs they offer.
We hope that you find something within this section that will help make your journey through breast cancer treatment easier and life beyond breast cancer more vibrant, peaceful and healthy.
What is the difference between complementary and alternative therapy?
An alternative therapy is any treatment for cancer that is used to replace a traditional medicine cancer treatment. A complementary therapy is used together with or to “complement” traditional forms of treatment. Complementary therapy often focuses on treatment and healing of the whole person—mind, body, spirit—rather than just the disease itself.