Complementary therapies in cancer symptom management — ASN Events

Complementary therapies in cancer symptom management (#10)

Donald Abrams 1
  1. University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States

After treatment, many cancer patients are left with residual symptoms that may be quite distressing and negatively impact on overall quality of life. Fatigue, pain, neuropathy, hot flashes, nausea, anxiety and depression may be experienced by patients who have successfully completed their primary cancer treatment. Although a significant pharmaceutical armamentarium may be available to address some of these vexing complaints, often a non-pharmacological intervention may also have some benefit. Patients may turn to vitamins and dietary supplements to address some of their symptoms. More such clinical investigations are being conducted and reported in the conventional oncology literature. The role of physical activity in improving both quality of life and survival after cancer diagnosis is being increasingly appreciated. Specific physical activities with an additional mind-body component, such as yoga and Tai Chi, are also useful in ameliorating some post-treatment symptoms and improving overall quality of life. Clinical trials of acupuncture have demonstrated the benefit of this intervention for an array of problematic symptoms including nausea, hot flashes, aromatase inhibitor-induced musculoskeletal symptoms, post-radiation xerostomia and lymphedema. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is also being widely evaluated in clinical trials to assess its utility in cancer symptom management. For many patients these complementary interventions are appreciated as alternatives to additional pharmaceuticals that they may prefer to avoid following their intense experiences with chemotherapy and radiation. Oncologists should be aware of the evidence supporting these treatments so they can best counsel patients with inquiries.