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Summary Article: Cancer Alternative Therapy
From Encyclopedia of Global Health

Because cancer can manifest itself in so many different ways and variations, including the ability to spread or metastasize, it is not surprising that a variety of different forms of treatment are used to combat it. Even when the cancer is susceptible to the use of drugs (chemotherapy) or ionizing rays (radiotherapy), there are likely to be additional symptoms or outbreaks of the disease that require other forms of treatment. These alternative therapies vary significantly in their nature and efficacy with respect to any particular patient. Of course, the best form of treatment is prevention and there are a number of lifestyle factors that can be applied to reduce the risk of cancer: avoiding cigarette smoke, keeping skin protected from the sun, adopting a balanced diet, and so forth. There are also external effects that societies can control to some extent through reducing pollution or changing the forms and patterns of large-scale energy generation or other effects in the environment that can stimulate cancer growth.

Because chemotherapy and radiotherapy can provoke often distressing and debilitating side effects, it is important for the patient to be kept in as mentally and physically strong a condition as possible. Appetite and diet management will be one important area in this regard, especially because patients may find their appetite impaired by other forms of treatment.

There are, additionally, various forms of alternative or complementary medicine; each have some adherents. Evidence varies as to the efficacy of such treatments, but even those that have very little basis in medical reality may yet carry a psychological value. Therapeutic massage can be used to tackle some types of muscular pain and to strengthen the body and its flexibility. Acupuncture is favored by some as a means of pain management.

Some scientists have been experimenting with more effective means of inhibiting cancer cell growth or killing the cells that have been affected. Efforts include the search for vaccines that would immunize people to specific cancerous growths and the use of high-temperature (hyperthermia) treatments to tackle cancerous cells. Other research has focused on the use of newly understood types of energy beams or more exotic approaches.

  • Alternative Medicine; Cancer (General); Cancer Chemotherapy; Cancer—Coping with Cancer; Cancer Radiation Therapy.

  • James S. Gordon; Sharon Curtin, Comprehensive Cancer Care: Integrating Alternative, Complementary, and Conventional Therapies (Perseus, 2001).
  • Ross Pelton, Alternatives in Cancer Therapy: The Complete Guide to Alternative Treatments (Fireside, 1994).
  • John Walsh
    Shinawatra University
    Copyright © 2008 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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