Lung Cancer

Complementary therapies and other approaches for lung cancer

Complementary therapies and some other approaches to dealing with cancer have not been tested using conventional scientific methods, so their effects have mostly not been measured or proven. Further, as the name 'complementary' suggests, these approaches are considered an addition to and not a substitute for conventional medical treatment.

Some of those interviewed here said that they would not consider using complementary therapies. Either they did not know that these therapies existed or they did not want to spend any more time having treatment or they did not believe in non-medical approaches - what one man called 'all that rubbish'.

Other people had tried one or more complementary therapies, which were sometimes offered at their local hospital or at their support group. Most had been able to have a number of treatments free, sometimes from therapists who volunteered their time, including acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, homeopathy, reflexology, Reiki, and art therapy. Where treatment wasn't free the cost was sometimes a deterrent.

Some people spoke highly of reflexology. It made them feel better and gave one woman a sense of inner peace. Aromatherapy was recommended by a number of people because it made them feel relaxed. One woman said that the smell of the oils made her feel better and the massage involved in aromatherapy relieved her pain. However, another woman, who liked aromatherapy, sometimes found the massage a little painful. People's experience of these therapies also varied with the skills of the practitioner.

A man who had had a pneumonectomy said that acupuncture combined with massage had helped to relieve his pain and shortness of breath. Another person took homeopathic medicine to relieve the sickness that accompanied chemotherapy.

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Reiki was discussed by one woman, whom it did not help; but she said that other people in her support group had found it very relaxing. One man found Zhan Zhuang, also called Chi Gong (“standing like a tree”), a Chinese exercise, beneficial.

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Some people found other approaches helpful too. For example, many people were convinced that positive thinking had helped them (see 'Message to others with lung cancer'), and others believed in spiritual healing and the power of prayer.

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Many people spoke of the benefits of relaxation and one man found self-hypnosis beneficial. A woman's daughter gave her a small crystal to wear round her neck, and explained that her daughter had faith in its healing power.

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A few people took additional vitamins because they had heard that certain vitamins benefited cancer patients. One man ate more fruit and vegetables, particularly red fruits and red vegetables, and ate less red meat. Another man recommended a drink made with root ginger and honey. He was convinced that it alleviated feelings of nausea.

Last reviewed May 2016.

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