Complementary therapies are used in conjunction with conventional medicine to help support patients throughout their brain tumor treatments and recovery. An alternative treatment, on the other hand, is a treatment used instead of conventional medicine to promote healing. Together, these therapies are called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
As of yet, no CAM therapies have been scientifically proven to cure brain tumors or brain cancer. However, this field offers an abundance of therapies to help patients cope with the complications of brain tumors and the side effects of treatment.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine divides alternative and complementary therapies into four main types:
- Energy Medicine
- Manipulative and body-based
Biologically-Based Complementary Therapies
Biologically-based approaches include therapies that use substances found in nature, such as:
- Dietary supplements: Vitamin D can help shut down the enzymes that brain cancer cells need to reproduce.
- Herbal products: Ginger can diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
- Special diets: Controlled Amino Acid Therapy (CAAT) restricts certain amino acids in the diet that cancerous cells must have to grow, thus nourishing healthy cells while starving cancer cells.
Research has shown that many vitamins and herbs are in effect, anti-cancer, so adding these to your diet may help prevent tumor growth. Biological therapies do have side-effects and interactions, though, so check with your physician before embarking on an alternative treatment plan.
Energy Medicine for Brain Tumor Treatments
Energy therapies use energy fields from within or outside the body for health and healing. Several energy medicine techniques exist, including:
- Acupuncture: Rebalances the flow of energy in the body by stimulating points with thin needles; can reduce fatigue, nausea and anxiety associated with treatment, and may improve blood counts.
- Qi gong: Combines meditation, movement and breathing to improve circulation and immune function.
- Reiki: Uses “Universal Life Energy” transmitted through a practitioner to heal the spirit and body.
Practitioners may also use energy fields originating outside the body, such as electromagnetic fields, to manage pain and headaches.
Manipulative and Body-Based Complementary Therapies
Body-based therapies are those that involve moving and manipulating parts of the body. Examples include:
- Chiropractic: Adjustment of the spine to restore health and immune function
- Massage: Muscle massage to decrease nausea, pain, anxiety and depression
- Yoga: Performance of gentle poses to promote relaxation, deep breathing and concentration; also helps eliminate toxins and builds stamina.
Mind-Body Brain Tumor Treatments
The aim of mind-body medicine is to improve the mind’s ability to positively affect the body. Examples of mind-body techniques include:
- Guided imagery: Using visualization techniques to help patients work through anxiety, pain and nausea
- Meditation: Focusing attention to relax the mind and body; can help with rehabilitation of cognitive functions
- Music Therapy: Listening to or performing music to promote relaxation and distraction from pain; reduces anxiety and stress associated with treatment and rehabilitation.
Doctors familiar with CAM therapies also employ whole medical systems as complementary therapies and alternative cancer treatments. They may draw on one or more of the following systems:
- Traditional Chinese Medicine.
National Brain Tumor Society Staff. (n.d.). Treatment FAQ. Retrieved April 17, 2010, from the National Brain Tumor Society website: http://www.braintumor.org/TreatmentFAQ/#q3849.
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Staff. (n.d.). About complementary/integrative medicine. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center website: http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/resources-for-professionals/clinical-tools-and-resources/cimer/therapies/manipulative-and-body-based-methods/body-based-methods.html.
Deng, G. (2008). Complementary and alternative medicine. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from the National Brain Tumor Foundation website: http://www.braintumor.org/upload/images/Newsletters/Search_2008_Spring.pdf.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Staff. (n.d.). What is CAM? Retrieved April 28, 2010, from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/overview.htm.
Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation Staff. (2009). Complementary therapy and healthy eating. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation website: http://www.cbtf.org/learn/complementary-therapy-and-heal.