Complementary Therapies for Breast Cancer

Many breast cancer treatment methods work on the physical effects of the disease. There are also some complementary therapies that are more about promoting a balance between your physical and mental health without focusing solely on the cancerous areas. Here are some examples of those options:

Complementary therapy options

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Massage
  • Religion (prayer)
  • Music therapy
  • Journaling
  • Hypnosis
  • Guided imagery
  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Shiatsu
  • Reiki
  • Meditation
  • Support groups
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Herbal medicine
  • Energy therapy
  • Talk therapy

Why complementary?
Some women use complementary therapy to seek help with pain management. Others hope to learn how to better manage their emotions when undergoing treatment. Patients may find that they are feeling alone in their journey and are looking to connect with others who are in similar situations so the turn to group therapies.

The more physical options, like acupuncture, massage and yoga, may help relieve pain and energize patients. If you choose to have acupuncture or get a massage, be sure to mention your cancer treatment to the therapist so he or she can be especially sensitive around scarred areas or avoid places altogether (like if you have had procedures involving your lymph nodes or if you're undergoing radiotherapy, it is necessary to avoid the affected areas). Several other types of therapy, like journaling, attending support groups and talk therapy, allow cancer patients to express their feelings and come to terms with their disease. 

Alternative therapies can promote relaxation. At a time of considerable stress, especially during treatment and recovery for cancer, finding ways to cope with and handle the tension and strain that your body and mind are under is very important. Relaxing can even help your immune system to work with the treatment method you are using. Meditation, breathing exercises and other alternative therapies might help give you peace of mind. They may also improve your sleeping habits and reduce nervousness. 

These methods are not primary treatments for breast cancer, they will not cure the disease. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new therapy technique. He or she may even have recommendations for places to go that facilitate therapy or individual practitioners to check out. 

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