If you’re facing a diagnosis of mesothelioma, you want all the help you can get. It’s a tough disease to fight, and as with any cancer, you have to deal not only with the symptoms of the disease, but also with the side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments. People fighting mesothelioma often look to alternative or complementary treatments to help them through the fight.
Alternative treatments are non-standard treatments that patients may use instead of the recommended medical treatment. Complementary treatments are approaches used along with conventional treatment.
If you’re looking at other treatments besides what your treatment team is offering, you’ll want to be sure that you’re bringing on board allies, not enemies. Here are five important questions to ask when you’re looking at treatments other than the ones your mesothelioma treatment team has prescribed.
Will pursuing this alternative treatment delay or replace the mesothelioma therapy my doctors have prescribed? In all cancer treatment, and especially with mesothelioma, because it’s so often not diagnosed until it is fairly advanced, time is of the essence. Any delay in treatment allows the cancer to progress. An alternative therapy may cost you precious time that you cannot get back.
Will the people who propose this alternative treatment work with my doctors? Responsible physicians with treatment methods that have stood up to research and scrutiny are eager to consult with other physicians about a patient’s care. If the people advocating an alternative treatment won’t consult with your regular doctors, you should be very concerned.
How safe is this treatment? Cancer treatment is strong medicine, and it has strong side effects. Nothing works for everybody. The people recommending an alternative therapy should be willing to discuss the treatment’s side-effects and possible complications, and the statistical odds of your experiencing these downsides. If they can’t give you solid numbers, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Do the drugs, herbs, hormones, or supplements used in this treatment interfere with my regular mesothelioma therapy? Some substances can actually counteract the effects of chemotherapy, and undo the good that it’s doing. Mesothelioma patients should be especially aware of the risks of high doses of folic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. The only FDA approved chemotherapy agent for mesothelioma, Alimta, can have its effects cancelled out by excessive consumption of folic acid.
Have you talked over the alternative treatment with your mesothelioma treatment team? Good doctors want to help you make use of any treatment that will help you with your illness and the side-effects of treatment. They need to know all of the medications and supplements you’re taking, and the dosages, to be sure that the treatment effects are not being interfered with.
There are powerful and effective allies for your mesothelioma treatment, complementary approaches that can help you tolerate the rigors of chemotherapy and improve your quality of life. Physicians who treat mesothelioma place a high value on the use of complementary therapies and approaches to improve their patients’ well-being.
Two of your best allies are simple, cheap, and available to just about everyone. Regular moderate exercise has been shown in several large-scale studies to improve cancer survival rates. No diet can cure cancer (beware of any diet that promises to do that!), but a diet low in fat and high in plant-based foods, also called the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to increase survival rates for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Exercise and a plant-based diet generally make people feel better, as well.
Massage therapy has shown impressive results in reducing pain, fatigue, nausea, stress, and depression for patients undergoing cancer treatment. Patients were asked to rate themselves on these conditions before a full-body massage, and again after the massage. Self-ratings dropped sharply immediately after massage, and the lowered ratings persisted for over 48 hours. No medications, no invasive treatments; just a massage.
Meditation and yoga both reduced levels of pain, fatigue, insomnia, and depression. Both of these techniques showed a clear dose-response relationship: the more patients practiced them, the more symptom reduction they experienced.
If you’re interested in using any of these approaches to help you live with your mesothelioma, be sure to talk with your treatment team about them.