Complementary Therapies for Symptom Management in Cancer Patients

Author: Satija A1, Bhatnagar S1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup>Department of Onco-Anaesthesia and Palliative Medicine, Dr. BRA Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.
Conference/Journal: Indian J Palliat Care.
Date published: 2017 Oct-Dec
Other: Volume ID: 23 , Issue ID: 4 , Pages: 468-479 , Special Notes: doi: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_100_17. , Word Count: 267

Cancer patients are often poly-symptomatic which distressingly affects their quality of lives (QOLs). Alhough, conventional management provides adequate symptom control, yet is coupled with some limitations. Complementary therapies (CTs) have shown beneficial effects in cancer patients for symptomatic relief. The aim of this article is to provide evidence-based review of commonly used CTs for symptom management in cancer care. Hypnosis has promising evidence to be used for managing symptoms such as pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, distress, fatigue, and hot flashes. Guided imagery increases comfort and can be used as a psycho-supportive therapy. Meditation substantially improves psychological function, mental health, and QOL. Cognitive behavioral therapies effectively reduce pain, distress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression; and improve subjective sleep outcomes along with mood and QOL. Yoga has short term beneficial effects for anxiety, depression, fatigue, perceived stress, QOL, and well-being. T'ai Chi and qigong are beneficial adjunctive therapies for supportive cancer care, but their role in reducing cancer pain is not well proven. Acupuncture is effective for reducing treatment related side-effects, pain and fatigue. Other therapies such as massage techniques, energy therapies, and spiritual interventions have also demonstrated positive role in managing cancer-related symptoms and improve overall well-being. However, the clinical effectiveness of these therapies for symptom management in cancer patients cannot be concluded due to poor strength of evidence. Nonetheless, these are relatively free from risks and hence can be given along with conventional treatments. Only by tailoring these therapies as per patient's beliefs and preferences, optimal patient-centered holistic care can be provided.

KEYWORDS: Cancer; complementary therapies; mind-body therapies; pain; quality of life

PMID: 29123357 PMCID: PMC5661353 DOI: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_100_17