According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, 65 percent of Americans who have ever been diagnosed with cancer have used non-traditional therapies. Complementary treatments are those used alongside standard medical treatments prescribed by doctors. Alternative treatments are those used instead of standard medical treatments. Integrative medicine is a holistic approach that combines complementary and standard treatments to care for the mind and body as a whole.
Complementary treatments may be used to help relieve leukemia symptoms, reduce side effects of leukemia treatments, and improve mood and quality of life. Acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, mind-body techniques, and dietary supplements are among the complementary modalities that have been studied for effectiveness at relieving symptoms and side effects of leukemia such as nausea and neuropathy (nerve pain).
If you choose to try one or more complementary therapies, it is important to maintain the anti-cancer treatment regimen established by your doctor. Standard treatments such as chemotherapy have been proven effective in rigorous, scientific trials. It is also vital to inform your doctor of all treatments you incorporate so that they can warn you about any potential interactions and correctly interpret any side effects.
What does it involve?
Nausea is a common side effect of many treatments for leukemia. Acupuncture, acupressure, ginger, and aromatherapy help some people with leukemia relieve nausea.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of illnesses. During an acupuncture treatment, you will lie still on a table. A trained acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will insert fine needles into the skin or connective tissue just beneath the skin. The needles are left in the skin for up to 30 minutes. Different regions of the skin are targeted during acupuncture depending on the condition being treated. The practitioner may gently twist or move the needles. Heat or electricity may be applied to the needles. Acupuncture is usually painless.
Acupressure is another TCM practice. During an acupressure treatment, a TCM practitioner will press firmly into your skin with their fingers, elbows, feet, or special tools.
Acupuncture and acupressure are believed to work by balancing and correcting the flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”), throughout the body. Some Western researchers have proposed that acupressure works by stimulating nerves and increasing blood flow.
Ginger is an edible root that may be consumed in tea, candy, drinks, or other preparations.
The theory behind aromatherapy is that different scents can have an effect on the mood or health. Aromatherapy products are easily purchased in many shops or online.
Neuropathy – pain, numbness, or tingling caused by nerve damage – is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Dietary supplements including vitamin E, L-glutamine, the Japanese herb goshajinkigan, and omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in some people with leukemia.
Some people with leukemia report improved mood and lower levels of stress when they incorporate mindfulness practices such as meditation or prayer.
Massage may help improve pain, nausea, and mood problems in those with cancer.
A systematic review of studies on complementary treatments for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy found some evidence that vitamin E, L-glutamine, goshajinkigan, and omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent neuropathy from developing.
Study results indicate that acupuncture and ginger can help reduce nausea and vomiting in people with cancer.
Massage may help improve pain, nausea, and mood problems in those with cancer, but more studies are needed to establish safety and effectiveness.
Some people with leukemia report feeling better after one complementary treatment or another. However, most complementary modalities have not been studied in rigorous clinical trials to establish their safety and effectiveness.
Some herbal and nutritional supplements can cause dangerous interactions with leukemia medications or make them less effective. Some complementary treatments may exacerbate other health conditions.
Health insurance may not cover natural or complementary modalities. Some complementary treatments can be expensive.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to an acupuncturist or herbalist.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Cancer: In Depth – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Integrative Medicine and Complementary Therapies – Leukemia & Lymphoma Society https://www.lls.org/treatment/integrative-medic...
Types of Complementary Therapies – Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Natural products and complementary therapies for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: A systematic review – Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/p...
Aromatherapy With Essential Oils – National Cancer Institute https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/c...
Complementary and Alternative Medicine – National Cancer Institute