For mesothelioma, there are only a few clinical treatments (including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy) that are routinely applied for treating the disease. There are always more, emerging treatments undergoing research in clinical trials as well.
Still, many alternative treatments for mesothelioma have been used by patients as well. Many of these treatments do not have curative goals in mind. That is to say; they are not often concerned with extending lifespans or improving prognoses.
Instead, alternative treatments provide a way to look at the disease from a holistic perspective. They often incorporate treatments that involve both mind and body therapies for relaxation and comfort. Alternative methods have been known to improve the quality of life in a variety of patients, even for those who face a certainly terminal prognosis.
It should be noted that alternative treatments are not meant to replace standard medicinal practices. In that sense, these are really complementary treatments for mesothelioma, not alternative ones. This has come to be referred to as “integrative medicine,” in which conventional treatments are combined with complementary or alternative ones.
Let’s take a look at a few of the mesothelioma alternative treatments that patients have used.
The use of medicinal herbs goes back millennia. They have provided relief for a variety of symptoms throughout the course of human history. In fact, some chemotherapy drugs are derived from directly for herbs. Herbal medicine is a natural treatment for mesothelioma and has been used to ward off symptoms like pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing. Remedies are often prepared in the form of teas, tinctures, creams, capsules, or tablets.
Herbal medicine has also been used to reduce side effects (like nausea or vomiting) caused by conventional treatments. Some herbs (like Moringa oleifera, kanglaite, St. John’s Wort, and astragalus) have even shown anti-cancer or anti-inflammatory properties.
It should be noted that, even though many of these remedies are relatively safe, some of them may interfere adversely with your health. For instance, ginger (which can help alleviate nausea and vomiting) should not be taken before or after surgery because it can promote excess bleeding. Astragalus, a very potent herb, should be taken with care when undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Some common herbs and the symptoms they relieve include:
- Marijuana (nausea, vomiting, pain, loss of appetite, etc.)
- Aloe Vera (constipation, mouth sores)
- Turmeric (bruising, pain, inflammation)
- Eucalyptus (difficulty breathing)
- Black cohosh (coughing)
- Milk thistle (skin irritation)
- Chlorella (fatigue)
Mind and Body Combination Therapies
A variety of therapies try to incorporate both mind and body into the same exercise. The goal of these therapies is to both improve physical functioning and mental well-being.
Some examples include:
- Tai chi
Yoga is probably one of the most well-known mind-body practices. While some might think that it is only an option for hyper-flexible people, there are actually plenty of yoga poses that can be modified for people whose bodies are less malleable. Yoga, which originated in ancient India, focuses on meditative breathing that can prove to be beneficial for mesothelioma patients.
Other benefits of yoga include:
- Increased energy
- Reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression
- Decrease in symptoms of asthma
Tai chi and qigong also offer similar benefits. Both practices involve slow, methodical movements through the air with a combination of deep breathing and meditation. They have also shown decreases in depression symptoms and a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol.
Clearly, all of these practices can have very restorative effects on the mind and body.
Sound and Energy Therapies
The objective of sound and energy therapies is to provide a sense of serenity for both mind and body.
There are a variety of different energy therapies, but the most common are:
- Music therapy
- Therapeutic touch
- Sound energy therapy
Reiki works off the idea that there is an energy (called a “life force”) in a person’s body that can be cleansed. Reiki healers use their hands to “transfer” healing energy usually without touching the patient.
The effectiveness of this method is suspect, but there are no negative side effects associated with it. Therapeutic touch is similar, but practitioners physically touch their patients. Some patients have reported decreases in anxiety and improved mood after reiki or therapeutic touch sessions.
Music therapy involves listening to, writing, or discussing music with a trained music therapist. As an alternative treatment for mesothelioma, it can provide relaxation and even a reduction in nausea after a chemotherapy session. Sound energy therapy is similar except that it involves listening to pre-recorded tones designed to amplify comfort. The tones usually come from tuning forks or Tibetan singing bowls.
Again, none of these methods has been scientifically proven to provide any extensive benefits, but many patients do experience positive results.
Body-based therapies often involve the use of light external pressure on the body with the goal of improving relaxation and reducing pain. One of the most well-known examples of this is a therapeutic massage. As a complementary treatment for mesothelioma, it can soothe cancer-related pain, help stimulate blood flow, and relax otherwise stiff muscles.
Chiropractic care also provides similar benefits except that practitioners focus more on the structure of the body (particularly the spine) and how its proper functioning informs overall health.
Other body-based therapies include:
- TENS therapy
Most people are probably familiar with acupuncture. It is a therapy that involves the insertion of needles into pressure points throughout the body. Studies have actually shown that acupuncture can reduce side effects of chemotherapy (like nausea and vomiting) after treatment. Pain and anxiety are also said to improve in some cases. Acupressure is similar, but it uses finger pressure rather than needles to stimulate pressure points.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is a newer method of reducing pain. Electrodes are attached to the body, and a current of low voltage electricity is sent through them. Some suggest that the minor electrical shocks send signals to the brain to limit the amount of pain in certain areas. TENS therapy has been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Mental and Emotional Health Therapies
There is no question that a mesothelioma diagnosis can degrade mental and emotional health in addition to physical health. That’s why it’s important to engage in these therapies. The most common type of mental health therapy is counseling (often just called therapy).
Patients are often helped through the thoughts and emotions by licensed therapists, psychologists, or clinical social workers in one-on-one sessions. Patients can also be joined by their family members or engage in a large group therapy or support group sessions to really find community support.
Meditation can also be a great form of therapy. It is a practice of mindful awareness that allows patients to process both their inner selves and the external surroundings. Meditation has been shown to improve anxiety and depression symptoms.
Another complementary treatment for mesothelioma is pet therapy. As you might have guessed, this form of therapy involves spending time with animals of any and all varieties. Going to an aquarium to watch the jellyfish float or spending time with your friend’s dog can improve your mood, concentration, and alertness.
Holistic Health Treatments
The goal of most holistic health systems is to treat the entire person rather than simply the disease. Many holistic health techniques overlap, but they all have key differences as well.
In general, though, most complete healing therapies have these criteria in common:
- Improved dietary changes
- Use of medicinal herbs
- Mind-body combination therapies
- Overall lifestyle changes
One of the most common holistic and alternative treatments or mesothelioma is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The practice has been offered for thousands of years and has provided solace to countless patients. A traditional herbal remedy of 12 extracts called jin fu kang has shown slight cancer-killing properties. It has also been demonstrated to increase survival times in lung cancer patients. TCM also often incorporates the use of acupuncture.
Another holistic system (this time from India) is known as Ayurveda. The goal of this system is to fill the body with as few toxins as possible. Herbal remedies, dietary improvements, minor surgery, and purification therapies are all commonly administered with this methodology. The underlying belief is that there are three “doshas” or elemental substances that fall out of balance when disease occurs.
Osteopathic medicine is another whole-body health system. In the United States, osteopathic doctors are licensed to prescribe medications and perform surgeries. The only difference between an osteopathic doctor and a regular (allopathic) one is that the former is, again, concerned with the whole person and not just the symptoms or the disease.
Osteopathic doctors may also be more inclined to prescribe natural treatments for mesothelioma before they will prescribe pharmaceuticals. They are not, however, against the use of pharmaceuticals, in general. Musculoskeletal issues are also often addressed as there is a belief that they can affect all parts of the body.
Naturopathic medicine is another field in which natural remedies are favored over pharmaceutical ones. This field of medicine is not as well-regarded in the scientific community because it can rely on folk medicine and “self-healing.” Still, some patients have found naturopathic medicine to be of some value.
Before engaging in any one of these treatment options, it’s important to consult your doctor or oncologist. Again, some herbal remedies may have a negative effect on your health, particularly if you are undergoing conventional treatment methods. Still, many of these treatment options have proven to be helpful for a large cross-section of people.