Like so many patients diagnosed with her type of cancer, Sue was shocked by the survival rates. Information available from the American Cancer Society showed only around one in five patients alive a year after their diagnosis. This led her consider alternative treatments for pancreatic cancer.
Overview of pancreatic cancer
According to the Mayo Clinic, the role of the pancreas is to produce enzymes that assist in digestion and hormones that help regulate how the body metabolizes sugar. The organ lies horizontally in the abdomen, behind the lower part of the stomach. It’s around six inches long and resembles a pear on its side.
Because it’s usually not detected in an early stage and spreads quickly, pancreatic cancer is often linked to a poor prognosis.
One of the most important parts of diagnosing pancreatic cancer is determining its staging. This is because the treatment options available in conventional Western medicine are linked to the stage of the malignancy. In Stage 1, cancer appears only in the patient’s pancreas. However, by Stage IV, it has typically spread to outlying sites like the lungs, liver and abdominal lining.
Traditional treatments include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Targeted therapy and clinic trials are available to some patients.
Many patients intend to review every treatment available to try to cure the cancer. This includes considering alternative – or complementary – therapies once traditional treatments offer little hope. It’s essential to discuss all options with the doctor in charge of treatment.
The National Pancreas Foundation indicates that alternative therapies are those patients can utilize along with medical treatment in order to feel better.
Massage therapy. It could treat just one area or might be a full body massage. It involves touch and a variety of techniques to stroke or knead muscles. Massage targets muscle and bone discomfort, circulation problems, swelling, difficulty relaxing and pain. It also reduces stress. Patients should make sure to hire only a licensed massage therapist.
Therapeutic touch. This is a process of energy exchange. The practitioner uses his or her hands to focus on the healing process. The premise is that a human being is a form of energy. Practitioners believe disease causes a disturbance in the balance of energy and seek to correct it. Research has revealed this alternative treatment can reduce anxiety and change the patient’s perception of pain.
Physical exercise. When a pancreatic cancer patient is physically able, exercise improves the quality of life. It can decrease stress, pain, fatigue, nausea and depression. When performed regularly, it affects the balance of hormones in the body and the heart rate positively. With a doctor’s permission, walking twice a day for short intervals at least three times a week is ideal. Other types of exercise like stretching and isometrics are also helpful.
Meditation. This type of alternative medicine can reduce anxiety, tension and distress. Focused breathing, progressive muscle relation, affirmations, prayer, yoga and guided and visual imagery are all part of it. Regular medication can help a pancreatic cancer patient’s sleep, concentration and ability to handle stress associated with pain, nausea and anxiety.
Laughter. Researchers are currently studying the benefits of laughter. Evidence suggests it can boost a patient’s immune system.
Acupuncture. This alternative therapy involves Chinese practices thousands of years old. Using very thin needles, the practitioner stimulates specific points on the body. The needles might be manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation.
One of the most important aspects of any type of alternative treatment for pancreatic cancer is assembling and relying on a support system, according to the Mayo Clinic. Connecting with cancer survivors can also prove comforting for many patients.
American Cancer Society site
Mayo Clinic site
National Pancreas Foundation site