Standard cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can be life-saving, and they also often bring challenging side effects which are hard to tolerate.
Nausea, vomiting, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, pain, lack of appetite, hot flashes, dry mouth, anxiety, and inflammation are frequent side effects of standard treatments.
Holistic therapies, which treat the entire person rather than just one area, can be quite useful as complementary treatments to make the more traditional methods more bearable. I take a closer look at how holistic options can benefit cancer patients.
How Massage Can Help Cancer Patients
The Memorial Sloan Kettering CancerCenter cites a number of benefits from massage therapy for cancer patients, including:
- Reduction in depression and other mood disturbances
- Promoting relaxation and better circulation
- Reduced anxiety and better sleep
- Headache relief
- Break up adhesions and scar tissue, increasing comfort for the patient
Specialized Oncology Massage
Oncology massage is different from traditional massage, and although both types may be helpful to cancer patients, it’s helpful to know which type works best for you. Benefits may include:
- Increased ability to tolerate standard cancer treatments
- Reduction of pain
- Better sleep
- Less chemotherapy-related nausea
Reflexology involves the manipulation of pressure points on the hand, foot, or scalp. Some cancer centers offer this treatment to be done during chemotherapy infusions, eliminating the need for an additional appointment, and making the hours receiving infusions more pleasant and relaxing.
- In a study of breast cancer patients, reflexology applied to the feet reduced shortness of breath and fatigue, and led to improvements in physical function, enabling patients to do more daily tasks with greater ease
- Decreases in depression and anxiety are benefits of reflexology.
- Studies are currently underway to document the usefulness of reflexology for cancer patients.
What About Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the accumulation of lymph, which causes swelling. Lymph is normally drained by the lymph nodes, which can be damaged or removed by cancer or cancer treatment. Some massage therapists are trained in manual lymphatic drainage, which can be very helpful to cancer patients.
- Manual lymphatic drainage can make the patient more comfortable, and reduce health risks of lymphedema.
- In some cases, patients can learn to administer manual lymphatic drainage to themselves.
Dealing with Dehydration
Due to some of the common side effects of cancer treatment—vomiting and diarrhea—it is vitally important to prevent dehydration. Water is critical for life functions: it keeps you from overheating, transports nutrients in the body, and clears waste products and toxins. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids every day—ideally more than two liters per day—while limiting drinks such as tea and coffee, which can leave you feeling dehydrated.
Alternative or holistic therapies do not cure cancer, but they can certainly make the treatment process more bearable, and enhance the patient’s quality of life.
Reductions in pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, scar tissue, and depression are worthy goals that can be addressed with an appropriate message. As with any treatment method, it’s best to check with your health care team before adding massage, or any additional therapies to your treatment regimen.
Note. Featured image from Health wellness vector created by storyset – www.freepik.com
Leave a Reply