Alternative medicine for cancer survivors

Cancer is a deadly disease with high mortality rates. However, the modern day chemo and radiotherapies help prolong the life span of patients. Apart from the disease, the pain and the complications arising from the treatment make patients go through a phase of psychological, emotional and physical distress. Though a patient comes out of cancer clinically, he still suffers from sleep problems, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sudden onset of severe body pains, depression and other anxiety disorders for a long time. These complications are common in over 80-95% of all cancer survivors.

This statistic shows that a cancer survivor needs a holistic personalized therapy or program which heals him physically and psychologically – one in which the nutritional and emotional balance is established. But, the practice of modern medicine is to treat cancer like any other common disease. However, of late, oncologists and surgeons suggest using alternative medical systems to return the patient to normal life as quickly as possible.

What are the primary benefits?

a. Combating side effects: Many researchers have documented that using alternative medical systems like yoga, herbal therapies, Ayurveda, nutritional therapies etc during o before radio therapies have shown significant reduction in fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and improvement in building positive mindset. They also bring about a great reduction in complications after the therapies, especially as patients are able to go back to their routine life faster.

b. Building psychological strength: When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, the stress and anxiety levels increase, which help the disease spread faster. Alternative medicine therapies like Abhyanga and yoga with planned diet improve the lifestyle of patients especially as pre-therapy procedure. A small group of cancer patients in Japan was subjected to yoga and herbal medications with a planned nutritional diet. The patients were less stressed than other patients and were able to go back to normal life much faster.

c. Stress and cortisols: A patient’s stress level during the treatment plays a major role in the outcome of the treatment. If the stress level goes beyond a limit, the body physiologically increases cortisols and cytokine production, which indirectly decreases the cancer outcome of the therapy. Some of the researches in China say that herbal medicines like ginseng, asparagus, green apple etc when supplemented as food decreases bad stress and patients are able to resume the normal life quickly.

d. Improving the net outcome: Some physicians say that a holistic and integrated approach with Ayurveda and yoga as pre-cancer therapy and post-cancer therapy improves the outcome of the cancer therapy with minimized complications and improved lifestyle of the patient.

e. Decreasing insomnia and depression: Most of the time, especially after cancer therapy, insomnia and depression kill the patient. Cancer institutes in America have introduced alternative therapies like music therapy, yoga, increased anti-oxidant intake, traditional detoxification therapies, etc to reduce negative thoughts about the outcome of the treatment.

Ayurveda approach to cancer as pre or post cancer therapies

Generally, Ayurveda approach to cancer has three phases
1. Detoxification
2. Cancer treatment
3. Rejuvenation or prevention of cancer

a. Detoxification – Often the body is filled with various kinds of toxins including residue of unutilized medicines, cancer toxins, free radicals, metabolic waste etc. So it should be purified to get maximum results from the treatment. According to Ayurveda, the purification procedures are important and are termed as Pancha Karma that is emesis, purgation, bloodletting, medicated enema and medicated nasal drops therapies. Depending on the nature of cancer, one of these therapies is selected.
b. Treatment – Once the body is detoxified, the next stage is the treatment, where the patient is given herbal medications and diet. Some of researches has shown that these therapies and medicines actually increases the bio availability of the chemo or radio therapy which in turn helps in getting better results.
c. Rejuvenation – It is always important to make sure that the body is completely free from diseased cells. Here we start the last phase of the treatment that is rejuvenation of the body, since it is important to rejuvenate all the organs in the body to lead a normal healthy life.

Ayurveda therapies, personalized yoga and breathing exercise, planned diet etc when supplemented with existing cancer therapies could bring a good outcome which in turn helps the patient to resume his or her life swiftly.

Source: Dr K Gowthaman, Medical Director, rVita (rVita Ayurveda Centers)

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