Alternative medicine is the use of means, in addition to, or instead of conventional, to treat disease or pain. There is lots of controversy surrounding alternative medicine, especially in the cancer arena, because most of it is unproven, as far as the medical world is concerned. To be proven, a treatment must have undergone peer-reviewed, controlled studies. However, if you know where to look, you can find plenty of research to support the efficacy of many alternative therapies.
Every day, more and more of us are becoming fed up with conventional medicine's way of doing things; I mean, let's face it … Western medicine's focus is managing a disease once it occurs. Many alternative methods can be used as preventive instead of management. Once I started thinking about it, I knew there just had to be a better way. That's when my alternative journey began.
The many different avenues of alternative medicine, can be overwhelming and there are many with which I do not have personal experience. But, this is your starting point … a broad overview, not all-encompassing, by any means, of breast cancer alternative medicine. Some of these methods are palliative (help manage pain and discomfort of cancer and its treatment), some are complementary (to be used in addition to conventional), some are intended to be preventive, and others look promising as adjuvant treatments.
Manual Healing and Physical Touch
This is a huge category that includes acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and Reiki, to name a few. Acupuncture is derived from Chinese medicine and involves inserting tiny needles through the skin into specific energy pathways on the body. This method interrupts the energy that flows through the body and is based on balanced Qi. There is lots of controversy surrounding whether acupuncture can be used as a method of treating cancer, itself, but it is thoroughly documented to alleviate pain and nausea from cancer and its treatments.
Chiropractic is the correction of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. It is achieved by adjustments to the spine and neck. There are traditional chiropractors who adjust the entire spine and then there are Direct Non-Force Technique chiropractors who alleviate neurotransmitter interference, throughout the body, by specific, targeted adjustments. The thinking, here, is that the body has the means to heal itself and seeks to maintain balance within itself. Correcting the musculoskeletal disorders helps to regain the balance that has been lost.
Massage has been found, by recent studies, to provide more alertness and less depression, stress, anxiety, and pain. There are many different forms of massage, ranging from deep tissue to a basic relaxation massage. Many health care providers are proponents of massage therapy in addition to conventional treatment.
Reiki is a Japanese word that means universal life energy. This is a method that is typically performed in person but can be performed from a distance. The thinking behind Reiki is that, when the energy pathways of the body are blocked, it results in disease and/or pain. A Reiki practitioner can unblock these pathways, resulting in less pain and muscle tension, and increased ability for the body to heal itself.
Herbs, Minerals, Vitamins, Diet, and Nutritional Supplements
This is one of the roads I've chosen, for myself, based on careful research and consideration. There is evidence that shows that what we eat plays a big role in cancer prevention and it's in the news all the time. In the evolution of our society, our foods have become more and more processed, and less and less nutritious. Farmers use pesticides to keep the bugs from getting our produce. They use hormones to grow our chickens, cattle, and pigs larger faster, so they can make money off them sooner. Of course, it doesn't occur to them, or maybe they just don't care, that those substances are then consumed by us. I didn't even realize those things were used until after I had been diagnosed. You mean I'm eating estrogen in my meat???? Wow, was that ever a wakeup call.
Most practitioners don't endorse the use of nutritional supplements simply because they haven't been approved by the FDA … this premise amazes me because there have been many drugs, that have been approved by the FDA, that have caused serious injury and/or death. There are many nutritional supplements that show serious promise in the prevention, and possibly even treatment, of breast cancer. The studies are out there, if you know where to look.
Naturopathy is another technique that uses the body's innate ability to heal itself. It is based on the concept that everything, within the body, is related and that if you have pain or illness, that is an alarm your body sets off to get your attention and let you know something is wrong. The naturopathic way of thinking is that your body begins to let you know something is out of balance … perhaps you aren't digesting your food correctly, or you have some hormones out of balance … and it begins a snowball effect, throughout your organs, until it gets your attention. Everything is related and, if there is a problem in one area, another area tries to take up the slack and becomes overworked, and so on. Naturopaths use natural means, such as homeopathic remedies, natural agents, manipulation, or electrical treatment to obtain balance so that the body can heal itself.
This is the practice of using minute doses of active ingredients to produce the body's own defense and healing process. It, like naturopathy, strives to achieve homeostasis (balance) so the body can heal itself. Homeopathic remedies work much like a vaccine does to our bodies and is based on the premise of like fixes like. Homeopaths prescribe substances that would cause symptoms, in a healthy person, for the purpose of healing those same symptoms in a sick person. For example, a homeopath would prescribe minute amounts of thyroid to someone whose thyroid was overactive for the purpose of the thyroid building a defense to this and slowing itself down.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive overview of alternative therapies, but is, as stated, an overview.