Many people who have been diagnosed with cancer use complementary health approaches. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, 65 percent of respondents who had ever been diagnosed with cancer had used complementary health approaches. Those who had been diagnosed with cancer were more likely than others to have used complementary approaches for general wellness, immune enhancement, and pain management.
Findings from a substantial amount of research suggest that some mind and body approaches, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and yoga may help to manage some cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment. This issue of the digest provides a summary of available research on mind and body health approaches for cancer-related symptoms and treatment side effects.
Modality and Summary of Current Research
Available data suggest that for people undergoing cancer treatment, acupuncture can help to manage chemotherapeutic-induced nausea and vomiting. There isn’t enough evidence to determine whether acupuncture relieves cancer pain or other symptoms such as treatment-related hot flashes or xerostomia.
Some studies suggest that massage therapy might help with pain and anxiety in people with cancer. However, research findings have not been consistent.
There is evidence that mindfulness-based stress reduction, a type of meditation training, can help cancer patients cope with stress.
Studies in women with breast cancer show that yoga may reduce fatigue and sleep disturbances, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve the quality of life. Most yoga studies have focused on women with breast cancer; much less is known about yoga for people with other types of cancer.
Results of some studies suggest that hypnosis may help manage pain, anxiety, and distress in patients who are having cancer-related procedures such as biopsies or surgery.