Many complementary and alternative cancer treatments focus on mental and spiritual wellness along with physical. A cancer diagnosis, particularly for a disease with low life expectancy such as mesothelioma, is often a source of great stress, and many patients seek help through other avenues when medical science does not or cannot meet their non-physical needs. Many of the therapies listed here emphasize the body’s connection to the mind and the importance of caring for both.

Examples of Mind, Body, and Spirit

Some of these treatments, such as meditation, yoga, pilates or aromatherapy, may be familiar, while others are not as widely known in the United States despite being well-established in other cultures. Qigong, for example, has a 7,000 year history in traditional Chinese medicine. Some of these treatments use familiar activities such as dance, music, or art in a carefully directed way to improve the patient’s well-being and mitigate symptoms of standard treatment.

Popularity of the Practice

According to the National Cancer Institute, the most popular complementary therapies were related to emotional and spiritual health — 61% of cancer survivors claimed to have used prayer and other spiritual practices during their battle with the disease. Relaxation was the second most popular, with 44% of survivors reporting having used it. About 42% also reported engaging in faith and spiritual healing. While many of these therapies remain unproven, their benefits — such as improvements in quality of life — are often difficult to assess in a clinical setting.

It is important to note that many of these therapies are symptom reducing measures, rather than cures. Before beginning any kind of complementary or alternative treatment, the American Cancer Society strongly recommends that patients discuss it with their health care professionals. Standard cancer treatments can weaken the body, making certain activities difficult or dangerous.


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