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Natural Chemotherapy Support Part One

November 23, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The topic of conventional chemotherapy is quite controversial in the natural health community. And, there’s certainly a time and place for people of goodwill to debate the pros and cons of this prevalent form of cancer treatment. However, once the decision has been made to utilize chemotherapy, the goal should then shift to finding safe ways of improving the efficacy and tolerability of this widely used procedure.

When seeking out complementary options for use during chemotherapy, mind-body approaches generally and justifiably top the list. The popularity of these techniques and their general acceptance among “integrative medicine” practitioners is due to a growing body of scientific evidence and the unlikelihood that such therapies will interfere with standard treatment.

In recent months, publications appearing in several peer-reviewed medical journals report that: a) acupuncture reduces chemotherapy-related anxiety, depression and fatigue; b) a supervised exercise routine likewise lessens chemotherapy and cancer-related fatigue; c) Mindfulness-based Art Therapy supports blood flow to the brains of women being treated for breast cancer, leading to a decline in anxiety and a boost in subjective energy levels; d) music therapy along with guided visual imagery is capable of lessening chemotherapeutic anxiety and nausea; e) reflexology, a form of foot massage that utilizes acupressure, improves health-related quality of life and repiratory function in advanced stage cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; f) a 16 week course of Tai Chi helps to restore cellular and humoral immune function after cancer treatment; g) practicing yoga for 6 weeks supports greater emotional, functional and physical well being in patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

In part two of this column, I’ll write about the most current information on dietary supplements which may be useful adjuncts to conventional cancer treatment. In the meantime, please note that the above information is admittedly general in nature. Ideally, every treatment protocol ought to be uniquely tailored for each individual. Doing so can increase the probability of a more positive outcome irrespective of the modality that’s employed. Given this context, mind-body therapies are a very hopeful and promising avenue to consider and discuss with your health care team.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Acupuncture for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients w/ Breast Cancer (link)

Study 2 - The Effects of a Six-Week Supervised Multimodal Exercise Intervention (link)

Study 3 - Changes in Cerebral Blood Flow & Anxiety Associated w/ an 8-week(link)

Study 4 - Effects of Music Therapy and Guided Visual Imagery on Chemotherapy (link)

Study 5 - Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes: A Reflexology Trial with (link)

Study 6 - Regular Tai Chi Exercise Decreases the Percentage of Type 2 Cytokine (link)

Study 7 - Pilot Study of Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors with Poor Quality of Life (link)

Mindfulness Practice Improves Quality of Life During & After Cancer Treatment

Source: Brain Behav Immun. 2008 August; 22(6): 969–981. (link)

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3 Comments & Updates to “Natural Chemotherapy Support Part One”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: More support for the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to chemotherapy.


    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:217397. doi: 10.1155/2014/217397. Epub 2014 Jul 24.

    Effects of acupuncture on leucopenia, neutropenia, NK, and B cells in cancer patients: a randomized pilot study.

    Chemotherapy is one of most significant therapeutic approaches to cancer. Immune system functional state is considered a major prognostic and predictive impact on the success of chemotherapy and it has an important role on patients’ psychoemotional state and quality of life. In Chinese medicine, chemotherapy is understood as “toxic cold” that may induce a progressive hypofunctional state of immune system, thus compromising the fast recovery of immunity during chemotherapy. In this study, we performed a standardized acupuncture and moxibustion protocol to enhance immunity in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and to assess if the improvement of immunity status correlates with a better psychoemotional state and quality of life.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update: A cold cap may protect against chemotherapy-induced hair loss …

    More Info: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/keeping-your-hair-in-chemo/?_r=0

    “Hair loss is one of the most obvious side effects of cancer treatment. Now, a growing number of breast cancer patients are freezing their scalps as a way to preserve their hair during chemotherapy.

    The hair-saving treatment, widely used in Europe, requires a specialized frozen cap worn tightly on the head before, during and for a couple hours after a chemotherapy session. The method can be time consuming, expensive and uncomfortable, but numerous women swear by the results.”

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 1/10/16:


    J Pain Symptom Manage. 2015 Dec 22.

    Tai Chi Exercise for Cancer-Related Fatigue in Patients with Lung Cancer Undergoing Chemotherapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    OBJECTIVES: We aimed to assess the effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise for cancer-related fatigue (CRF) in patients with lung cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

    METHODS: We conducted a randomized trial of Tai Chi exercise as compared with low-impact exercise as a control intervention. Exercises were practiced every other day, a one-hour session for 12 weeks for each of the study groups. The primary endpoint was a change in total score of the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory-Short Form (MFSI-SF). Secondary endpoints were changes in five subscale scores of the MFSI-SF. All assessments were repeated at three time points, T0: before first course of chemotherapy; T1: before third course of chemotherapy; and T2: at the end of the fourth course of chemotherapy.

    RESULTS: Between January 2012 and December 2014, 96 patients were enrolled in this trial. At six weeks and 12 weeks, the Tai Chi group had a lower MFSI-SF total score compared with the control group (59.5±11.3 vs. 66.8±11.9, P<0.05; 53.3±11.8 vs. 59.3±12.2, P<0.05). At six weeks, the Tai Chi group had lower MFSI-SF general subscale scores (18.1±4.6 vs. 20.4±4.5, P<0.05) and physical subscale scores (17.5±4.4 vs. 19.1±4.5, P<0.05), and higher MFSI-SF vigor subscale scores (14.5±3.3 vs. 11.6±3.4, P<0.05), compared with the control group. But no significant differences were found in emotional subscale (20.2±3.6 vs. 20.0±3.5, P>0.05) and mental subscale (18.2±4.0 vs. 18.9±3.9, P>0.05) scores between the Tai Chi group and the control group. At 12 weeks, the MFSI-SF subscale scores showed the same trends as at six weeks.

    CONCLUSION: Tai Chi is an effective intervention for managing cancer-related fatigue in patients with lung cancer undergoing chemotherapy, especially for decreasing general fatigue and physical fatigue, and increasing vigor.

    Be well!


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