When a mesothelioma patient is diagnosed, and after the reality of the diagnosis sets in, among the first questions most will ask is how their disease will be treated. No one wants to undergo harsh cancer treatments – of course – but for the 10,000 or so people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year throughout the world, the most common suggestions for treatment include those which carry plenty of side effects, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
However, there are many other less-invasive treatment options available, and many patients choose to couple these options with the traditional ones. A few shun the conventional all together and opt for some of the alternatives listed below.
There are wondrous stories of long-time survivors who’ve conquered the disease with nary a chemo treatment, though they are the exception rather than the rule and an individual should always check with their doctor before trying any treatment that could potentially cause harm, especially when combined with conventional treatments.
Some of the alternative mesothelioma treatment options listed below can also be used to lessen the side effects of conventional treatments and make them more tolerable, whereas others may be used for palliative purposes, simply to make the patient more comfortable, especially towards the end of life.
This ancient Chinese practice, which involves the insertion of needles at pre-determined pressure points throughout the body, is often used to alleviate pain, and many mesothelioma patients have used it successfully.
Some try it along with chemotherapy and, as an added perk, it is also known to stimulate the immune system. Studies show that it can help patients feel less fatigued when undergoing chemo or radiation as well.
This complementary therapy uses aromatic plants and oils to stimulate an overall feeling of well-beings – mood enhancers than can help a patient maintain a more positive attitude. Certain aromas are also thought to aid in pain relief.
The oils and plants are generally used in relaxing baths or in lotions for massages and the patient can partake of these as often as they choose as there is no harm in doing so. Some studies even show that particular aromas may help with the nausea so often associated with chemotherapy.
Art, Dance, or Music Therapy
Therapies that involve the arts generally act as mood enhancers for those who are suffering from a terminal disease or as a way for the patient to express themselves. Art therapy helps patients let go of pent-up feelings through drawing/painting or simply by observing art.
There’s no need for the patient to be “artistic” to participate in this kind of therapy. Similarly, dance therapy uses movement to allow patients to express how they’re feeling and is great for someone who has difficulty verbally expressing their issues with their disease, though it may be too strenuous for individuals in the later stages of mesothelioma.
Music therapy might involve making music with simple instruments or singing, or may simply include listening to certain types of music or the favorite music of the patient. It might even involve writing lyrics for a song expressing the patient’s frustrations, etc.
This type of therapy involves light touches on the spine, skull, and pelvic area, which are thought to relieve tension and aid in movement. Pain relief can also occur, according to those who subscribe to this type of alternative treatment, which has been around since the 1970s. Treatments usually take about 30 minutes to complete and practitioners of this therapy are also often well-versed in other similar therapies.
Treatments usually take about 30 minutes to complete and practitioners of this therapy are also often well-versed in other similar therapies.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
EFT was introduced in the 90s and is most often used to relieve anxiety, which is certainly a problem that permeates the world of those who have cancer. This treatment involves “tapping” on certain acupressure points on the body, usually in a specific order (temple, elbow, wrists, etc.), usually while repeating a self-affirming phrase such as “Even though I have anxiety, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Many anxiety patients find it very helpful.
Nutritional and Herbal Supplements
There are stories of several mesothelioma patients who have lived for years by changing their diet and adding nutritional supplements. For these people, it took lots of in-depth research and extreme changes in their eating habits.
You might want to read the story of Paul Kraus, for example, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1997 and is still alive today thanks to his homemade regimen. However, nutritional and herbal supplements can also assist in conquering side effects of treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
For example, a patient may need to increase their iron levels by means of an iron-rich supplement. Some supplements are also believed to aid with cell regeneration.
Cancer patients of all types have found hypnosis useful in helping them to feel calmer, hence enhancing their quality of life. Some individuals are hesitant to seek help from a hypnotherapist because they equate them with silly TV entertainers that make their subjects bark like a dog while in a trance.
The fact is, however, that hypnotherapists are highly-trained individuals who can conduct several guided sessions that will help with anything from stress reduction to preparation for surgery.
Lymph Drainage Therapy
Using very gentle manipulation, lymph drainage therapy can reduce swelling in the body that occurs after radiation or post-surgery or because of the removal of lymph nodes. Specifically, lymph drainage therapy can help relieve lymphedema, which causes swelling that occurs when the lymphatic system has been compromised or altered.
Perhaps you’ve seen a breast cancer patient, for example, with a several swollen arm, even years after treatment. That’s lymphedema. Done immediately after surgery, lymph drainage therapy may help patients avoid the condition altogether but can be used at other times as well.
If you’ve ever had a massage, you know that it can greatly reduce tension in the body and that’s exactly what it does for cancer patients, who are continuously stressed. Certain types of massage therapy can also help to relieve pain.
Some large cancer centers host therapists that offer oncology massage – that which is designed specifically with the cancer patient in mind. However, any massage performed on a cancer patient should be done by someone who is familiar with the limitations of a body that is affected by cancer.
As with massage therapy and hypnosis, meditation is meant to help with relaxation and stress reduction. One of the perks of meditation is that once a patient learns to do it, they can do it on their own at any time without the guidance of a professional. That makes it a very cost-effective method for combating stress and even depression.
Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is yet another palliative treatment that is helpful in relieving pain. With TENS therapy, patients enjoy an increase of endorphins through electric stimulation, resulting in a decrease of pain.
The treatment is not painful and it’s possible to buy or rent TENS units that patients can use at home. Those with heart conditions, however, should check with their doctor before trying TENS as it can really throw off an already irregular heartbeat.
Different from photodynamic therapy, which also uses light but is a scientifically-tested treatment that truly combats cancer, light therapy is, instead, a way to treat the side effects of the disease and its treatment.
UV lamps, for example, are believed to help reduce toxins while light box therapy is thought to reduce pain. Many practitioners believe that some of these light therapy treatments can shrink tumors, though not enough research has been done to back that claim.
There is a long list of additional alternative and complementary therapies that mesothelioma patients have chosen in hopes of perhaps a cure, though more often simply for relief from the pain and drudgery of the disease. Unfortunately, health insurance plans rarely cover these kinds of treatments, though more hospitals are now offering these options to their patients, so perhaps that will change sometime in the near future.