Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Any form of treatment that is not considered a conventional method to treat cancer, is considered alternative medicine.

Any form of treatment that is not considered a conventional method to treat cancer, is considered alternative medicine.

The combination of alternative medicine and traditional treatments is considered a complementary therapy. These methods deviate from traditional methods as they typically have little standing in scientific research, and are more geared towards treating symptoms and side effects rather than to treat or cure the ailment. 

Typically mesothelioma patients don’t gravitate towards alternative medicine as it can be an aggressive form of cancer and traditional methods have been proven to help alleviate symptoms and prolong life. If you are thinking of considering an alternative or complementary approach to treating your mesothelioma, talk with your doctor about your options to see if it is the right path for you. There has been no evidence that alternative medicines can cure or fully treat mesothelioma, but they can provide relief in ways that some traditional methods have been unable to.

Complementary therapies tend to be the more popular option among mesothelioma patients who want relief from symptoms but also want to use conventional methods to help treat the disease. 

Integrative Medicine

This is a form of complementary therapy that combines conventional treatments with more holistic options. Holistic methods to relieve symptoms or side effects from mesothelioma or related treatments, typically have to do with instilling wellness in the body. This means focusing on your overall health in addition to your treatment as a way to hone your body and thus make it more energized and able to recover from aggressive treatments. 

These methods usually cost very little or nothing at all, which is what makes them popular options to consider in addition to conventional medicine. 

  • Diet & Nutrition: Having a balanced diet that is full of vital nutrients is one of the key components for fighting off disease. Cancer patients need a diet that is high in protein, low in processed foods, and that prioritizes foods that are rich in iron and other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Exercise: It can be a little difficult when undergoing treatments to prioritize exercise, but even light activities like walking, yoga, and swimming, can help boost your immune system and help you connect with your body. 
  • Alternative Therapies: You should consult your doctor before considering alternative therapies, but some cancer patients have found success in alleviating symptoms and side effects through the use of medical marijuana, acupuncture, and more. These alternative therapies can help with adverse reactions to chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Mind & Body: When you’re struggling with a disease like mesothelioma, it can be difficult to get your mind and body to work together in harmony. Seeking out mental health professionals or just taking some daily time to meditate can help with your overall wellness. Your mind and your body are connected, so even though your mind may not be able to heal your body, having a better outlook and calming your stress can help relieve the damage that stress can inflict on the body. 

The benefits of integrative oncology are many as they have been proven to be safe and effective methods for curbing painful side effects of chemotherapy and other conventional treatments. The assurance that these alternative methods have been proven to actually help us in addition to conventional medicine, provides comfort to those who want to alleviate symptoms without adding more medicine or supplements to their regimen. 

Cancer Centers

There are a few cancer centers that recommend the use of integrative oncology as a way to help treat mesothelioma. Some of them even offer programs that are led by licensed professionals to provide nutritional services, counseling, yoga, and more. A few of the centers that provide integrative oncology programs are UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, MD Anderson Integrative Medicine Center, and The Abramson Cancer Center. 

These centers are some of the top cancer centers in the nation that have specialized in handling mesothelioma and related cancers. 

Integrative Medicine Results

Unlike other conventional forms of treatment, integrative oncology does not promise to be a cure or a proper treatment for mesothelioma on its own.

These methods are more commonly used as ways to help patients bear their traditional treatments Many patients who are undergoing aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatment methods, suffer from increased side effects which make them hard to keep up with. 

Some cancer patients cannot make it through these treatments as the symptoms can be so severe they are unbearable. Complementary medicine has the ability to curb some of these harmful side effects to make traditional cancer treatments easier to tolerate. Nausea, pain, and combined stress on the mind and body can be difficult, and make it harder for you to recover between sessions. 

Integrative mind and body approaches seek to target anxiety and help patients to relax and feel at ease between difficult bouts of treatment. There are a wide variety of options as well for things you can do to minimize anxiety so you can find exactly what works for you and your body. Even a combination of different holistic methods may also increase the likelihood of quicker recovery times and overall heightened wellness. 

It has been shown that over 40% of cancer patients use a complementary, alternative, or integrative method to help with their overall cancer treatment. It has been shown that there are improvements in appetite, hours of sleep per night, pain relief, and more.

While it doesn’t guarantee that your survival rate will be any higher, it does help supplement traditional methods by giving patients a better quality of life. 

Complementary Therapies

There are several options for complementary therapies to choose from to complement your traditional treatment. Whether you’re doing radiology, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or something else, these methods individually or tried in combination can ease some of your discomforts and make the symptoms easier to handle.

Most of these are natural remedies that can be used together as an ongoing treatment that contribute to your overall wellness. 

Diet & Exercise

It may not seem like one of the most important things to worry about when you’re already not feeling well and having to focus on treatment, but diet does a lot to help with overall health and wellness. With your body constantly in fight mode and your energy being sapped up by the treatment or the medication, you need the right kind of nutrition to supplement what you’re losing. 

Good additions to your diet while you’re undergoing cancer treatment are things that are heavy in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

It can be difficult to have an appetite with all the medicine, but it can only help you to give yourself as much nutrition as you can manage.

A proper diet for cancer patients include things like: 

  • Protein: To help make up for how much you’re losing, you need to be eating more protein. You’ll want to limit the amount of red meat you’re ingesting as it isn’t as helpful to your heart and cholesterol as other protein sources can be. This also goes for processed meats like deli meat and bacon as their salt levels aren’t good for your body. You’ll want to instead opt for fish, nuts, beans, and other legumes, and chicken. 
  • Iron: Especially if you’re having to get your blood drawn often, it can be important to add more iron into your diet. Some of these treatments can lead to anemia, and iron can help to ward that off. A few good sources of iron are dark leafy greens, beans, fortified cereals, nuts, and certain vegetables. 
  • Omega 3s: These will protect your heart from any damage that certain medicines or treatments may cause. You can find omega-3s in salmon, anchovies, walnuts, brussel sprouts, and much more. 
  • Immune Boosters: It can hurt to give your immune system just that extra little kick into gear while you’re undergoing extensive treatments. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and other essential vitamins and minerals can give you that boost you need in your diet. Citrus, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, turmeric, broccoli, pomegranates, and so many more things can pack your diet with all sorts of immune-boosting power without any extra effort. 

In addition to diet and nutrition, light exercise can help make your body stronger and give you more energy. It can be difficult to get up and moving when your body wants to rest, but if you go slow and pick activities that aren’t too strenuous it can do wonders for your body and mind. Light walking, yoga, swimming, and other little activities can keep you going without putting too much strain on your body. 

Exercise also releases endorphins, which can boost your mood and leave you feeling more energized. 

Herbal Remedies

In the past, as well as still today in other cultures, herbal medicines and remedies are administered to help with comfort and symptom management for different ailments. Many studies have been conducted on the helpful benefits of plant-derived and herbal treatments on reducing cancer symptoms. There are simple ones you can add to your daily meals like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and certain teas. Then there are other options like medical marijuana which has been proven to reduce nausea, pain and improve appetites in cancer patients. 

Whether they come in capsule form, can be ingested, or are something you smoke or put on topically, these herbal treatments should be reviewed by your doctor before use. Some herbs and roots can interfere with certain medicines and should be reviewed before you add them to your normal routine.

None of these herbal remedies have been proven to help reduce cancer cells significantly, but they can be helpful if you’re trying to stimulate your appetite or reduce pain while undergoing traditional treatments. 

Stress Reduction

Your body and mind are connected, which means if your body is out of sorts your mind may start to struggle as well and vice versa.

Stress is detrimental to the mind and the body and can make it more difficult to recover from treatments, other illnesses, and ward of symptoms from medications. Stress can even lower your immune system, which is the last thing you want while you’re struggling with mesothelioma or other forms of cancer. 

It sounds difficult, but doing what you can to reduce the stress in your environment does wonders for your health and wellness. Take time for yourself to just breathe and do things that you enjoy. You don’t have to do everything and recovery takes time and energy. Give yourself permission to rest and not stress about things that are out of your control. 

There are plenty of hobbies you can take up as stress relievers as well that help to alleviate symptoms and make things overall much easier if you’re struggling during treatment. 


Studies have shown that yoga can reduce anxiety, help with sleep, and improve your mood.

Especially considering it is recommended to get light amounts of exercise while undergoing cancer treatments, yoga is a perfect option for alternative treatment. While you shouldn’t go too hard with your choice in yoga, lighter sessions can help center your body and mind. It should be less of a workout and more of a way to stretch your muscles and calm your stress. 

It was concluded that yoga, when used in addition to conventional cancer treatments, showed positive improvements in patients’ overall well being and energy levels. It can help to soothe physical and mental distress while helping to settle aches in the body and calm you down enough to sleep. It also helps to improve general bodily functioning, improving airflow, heart rate, digestion, and wards off fatigue. 

Doing even just a half-hour of yoga a day can help to reduce stress levels considerably. Even if it is something you’ve never tried, it could be helpful to test out and see if your body responds to it. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, just take it slow. You may find you have a knack for it. 


When we think of meditation, we tend to imagine the caricature of what it is. We think of someone sitting on the floor, cross-legged and chanting ohm when that isn’t the case. Meditation is simply the act of focusing on mindfulness while clearing out stressors. All you need to do to meditate is find a quiet place to be alone with your thoughts. 

You should be comfortable and in a place that isn’t loud or busy so you can clear your mind and just practice your mental awareness. It isn’t an act of avoiding your thoughts, but instead thinking them through and trying to reorganize them. Your brain can be a messy place when you’re dealing with a lot of stress and trying to focus on your wellness. This is all about taking time to calm yourself down and find a place in your mind for all of those thoughts. 

Think of it as decluttering and cleaning out your space. You’re making room in your mind for positivity and mindfulness.

It has been shown that patients who practice meditation in addition to their other treatments, found they were less stressed, anxious, slept better, and overall felt less fatigued. 

Mental Health

Struggling with an illness like mesothelioma or related cancer can take so much out of you. It can cause depression and anxiety to flare up, even if you’ve never struggled with your mental health before. When faced with these feelings, it can cause an overabundance of stress, discomfort, and even fatigue you further than your traditional treatments have.

It is important to prioritize your mental health in addition to your physical health as they go hand in hand. 

If your mental health is suffering while you’re trying to fight your illness, it can make everything feel like an uphill battle. Setting aside time to prioritize your mental health will make you stronger in the long run. Whether that means seeing a therapist, going to a support group, or even getting help from an emotional support animal, any of these avenues will help you get your mental state back on track so you can truly fight for yourself. 

A one on one therapy session can help you get a clear idea of how to cope with what you’re going through. A trained mental health professional can teach you the proper techniques to help you process your experience and face up everyday challenges while still trying to go about your daily life. 

Support groups are helpful because they allow you to talk with other people who are going through the same thing you are, and together you can talk about the challenges. It can do wonders to know that you’re not alone and that other people are having similar experiences. Together you can share advice, trials, and triumphs, to make everything just a little bit easier to bear. 

An emotional support animal, or even just pet therapy can be extremely cathartic. If you’re an animal lover, nothing can help more with blowing off steam than snuggling a puppy or a kitten who just wants to make you feel better. While this isn’t as widespread of a therapy option, it is a good idea to ask if pet therapies are available near you if traditional therapy seems a bit too difficult. 

Massage & Acupuncture

Lymphatic massage specifically has been said to do wonders for cancer patients. Essentially what it does is move fluid buildup from one area to another where the system is working as it should. It helps to reduce swelling and remove fluid buildups in a way that can make your quality of life better and more comfortable.

Certain massage therapies should be cleared by your doctor, however, as they are not suitable for all patients. 

As for acupuncture, it is a treatment done with tiny needles inserted into pressure points in an attempt to relieve tension and stress from that area of the body. It has been said that this treatment can help reduce the symptoms that patients suffer in response to chemo and radiation. It can help with overall anxiety and give patients a sense of calm that is hard to achieve through other treatments. 

Talk to Your Doctor

While it may seem like complementary treatments are right for you, everything should go through your doctor first. They can help not only steer you in the right direction for what would be best to accompany your traditional treatment method, they can sometimes recommend specialists and offer other useful advice.

Some things you shouldn’t do without consulting a professional are: 

  • Try any drug or experimental treatment that hasn’t been reviewed by your doctor or the FDA.
  • Attempt any treatment method that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted by licensed medical professionals.
  • Take anything that is marketed to specifically cure mesothelioma as there is no approved cure on the market as of yet. 

Your doctor knows what is best for you and your body. They have seen cases like yours numerous times and know exactly the best form of treatment that will help you live longer and more comfortably. They can even help set you up with a specific regimen to help ease your symptoms in particular. 

While your form of cancer may be familiar to them, your reactions may be different than other patients. They can assess your current symptoms and help you come up with a blended treatment plan that integrates your traditional treatment with one or several of these alternative methods. 

They may be able to get you in touch with a nutritionist or set you up with a diet plan themselves to give you the kind of results you’re looking for as far as reduction of your symptoms. They will also likely know the best professionals to consult for your mental health and other forms of treatment like lymphatic massage. 

Trust your doctor to know what is best for your specific treatment plan.

Don’t let stubborn symptoms get you down. If you’re feeling rundown and think your treatment plan could be better, talk to them to find what is right for you and your needs.