Western medicine encompasses all types of conventional medical treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and physical therapy performed by doctors, nurses and other conventional healthcare providers. It differs from Eastern or alternative medicine in that it relies heavily upon industrially produced medication and a strict adherence to the formal scientific process.
Complementary vs. Alternative medicine
On the other hand, “complementary” and “alternative” are terms used to describe a number of products, practices, and systems that are not part of mainstream Western medicine. They can include things like herbs and dietary supplements, body movement, spiritual approaches, extracts, and creams or ointments. The American Cancer Society considers complementary and alternative medicine to be different from each other:
- Alternative medicine is used instead of standard or mainstream medical treatment, often with serious outcomes for the patient.
- Complementary medicine is used along with mainstream medical care. If carefully chosen and properly used, some of these can improve your quality of life without causing problems with your regular cancer treatment.
Treatments within Eastern Medicine
Alternative and complementary methods can relieve the side effects of mainstream cancer treatments without the need to take more pills. Some cancer patients prefer alternative treatments that might have fewer side effects. Either way, it’s important to check with your traditional doctor first before deciding to use any treatments within Eastern Medicine. Below is a list of treatments, along with a brief description and the benefits received.
- Imagery - is the use of visualization techniques designed to enable the mind to influence the health and well being of the body. Imagery can be useful during diagnostic testing such as MRIs and CT scans. Imagery can also be useful during radiation therapy by imagining the radiation beam to be a healing light.
- Massage - involves the manipulation, rubbing, and kneading of the body’s muscles and soft tissues with the use of oils, aromatherapy and soothing music. Massage therapy can decrease the anxiety, depression, and bone pain associated with chemotherapy.
- Polarity therapy - is a system of touch and movement using the positive and negative charges of the body’s electromagnetic energy field. Polarity can be effective in restoring the balance of the natural flow of energy throughout the body.
- Reiki - is a form of treatment used to manipulate energy fields within and around the body to liberate the body’s natural healing powers. It can be given in either a hands-on or hands-off format. Reiki is a Japanese word meaning “universal life energy.” Reiki can be helpful with creating total relaxation while in treatment.
- Acupuncture - is a technique in which very thin needles of varying lengths are inserted through the skin to treat a variety of conditions. Acupuncture can be effective in treating nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs. It is also helpful in relieving bone and muscle pain during both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Aromatherapy - is the use of fragrant substances distilled from plants, essential oils, to alter moods or improve health. They can be inhaled or diluted with olive oil and applied to the skin. For example, peppermint oil can be effective in reducing the intensity of hot flashes. Lavender oil can be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.
- Yoga - is a form of nonaerobic exercise that involves a program of precise poses and breathing activities to create a union of mind, body, and spirit. Yoga can be effective in building core strength, restoring balance, relaxation and physical fitness during cancer treatments.
- Feng Shui - is the ancient Chinese philosophy of placing physical objects to promote the beneficial flow of vital energy or life force called chi and to allow humans to live in harmony with the environment and the universe. The five elements of Feng Shui are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.
- Art Therapy - The process of making art can awaken an inner language of expression. It provides a way for people to express unspoken and often unconscious concerns about their illness. Art therapy workshops on healing through music, art and journaling are available through local hospital cancer centers.