Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
by Gayle MacDonald, M.S., L.M.T.
When the National Cancer Act was signed, the only concern was to cure the disease. Scant attention was paid to the physical, emotional, and social issues created by the toxic treatments. The aim was to keep people alive. Now, more than three decades later, the vision of cancer care has changed.
The focus has broadened to include not only eradication of the disease, but also to improve quality of life, particularly since many varieties of cancer are being managed as chronic condition, as with diabetes and heart disease. Cancer survivors, numbering nearly 10 million in the U.S., not only want to be cured from their cancer; they also want to live well.
As part of enhancing quality of life, cancer patients have turned toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), also referred to as integrative medicine. These therapies include such interventions as exercise, prayer, aromatherapy, acupuncture, guided imagery, massage, diet, and nutritional supplementation. When used as an alternative therapy, these modalities are used in place of allopathic care or in conjunction with it to promote a cure. When used in a complementary fashion, these therapies are used alongside mainstream medicine, usually to ameliorate the side effects of curative treatments and to improve quality of life.
Consistently, massage is reported as one of the most popular complementary modalities. Multiple studies show that approximately 20% of cancer patients use massage. In one study of a group of breast cancer patients, the percentage was as high as 53%. Patients say that they use complementary modalities to enhance their quality of life, to feel more in control, to strengthen the immune system, to reduce stress, and to manage the side effects of treatment. According to Morris, et al., "Our cancer patients are using complementary therapies with specific goals in mind as opposed to using them merely to obtain refuge from the uncaring world of allopathic medicine, as many people in the lay press believe." Massage helps people heal, it moves them toward wholeness. For a day or an hour, they forget about cancer.
Massage is not a cure for cancer; it is a complement to the treatments being used to cure the disease. These curative treatments are notorious for their side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, weight changes, or immuno-suppression. Touch therapies, lessen the severity of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, making the treatment process easier to tolerate.
Gayle MacDonald, M.S., L.M.T. Medicine Hands, Massage Therapy for People with Cancer
Used with permission from the author
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