Among all types of cancer, colon cancer is counted as the third cause of death among cancer patients. Cancer occurs when there is an abnormal and usually fast division and growth in cells, typically caused by mutations and damages in the DNA. Treatments for colon cancer include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. In chemotherapy, chemicals are released in the area of the body where the cancer cells are growing. These chemicals interfere with the cell division process in order to damage cancer cells. Similarly, radiation uses focused high-energy rays on cancer cells. Surgery, on the other hand, stops the spread of cancer cells by removing a part of the organ, or the whole, in order to completely remove cancer cells. In some surgeries, lymph nodes and other marginal areas are removed.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) include products and practices such as herbal sup-plements, other dietary supplements, mind-body therapy, and acupuncture. A growing number of oncologists are now suggesting the inclusion of CAM to the usual modern treatments, however, it should not replace medications and treatments as its primary purpose is to help the patient cope with their disease, symptoms and side effects of treatment to improve their quality of life, and not to act as a cure for cancer itself. Among the different methods included in CAM, a very traditional method is popularly emerging in the modern Western medicine, that is, mind-body therapy.
Mind-body therapy, also known as integrative or holistic psychotherapy is a traditional method of heal-ing that has been used since ancient times. It is often the foundation in different methods of healing such as in the Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practices.
Unlike the other alternative medicines mentioned, mind-body therapy has no side effects in the health and treatment for colon cancer and other types of cancer. For example, St. John’s Wort, used for depression, can make some cancer drugs less effective. Massage therapy and acupuncture, which is also used in traditional Chinese medicine, may add more stress and negative impacts to the parts of the body which has cancer cells, therefore, practitioners and patients may need to consult a health care provider before using these methods. Other dietary and herbal supplements can cause side effects to the body, or even drug dependency.
Mind-body therapy focuses on the connection between the mind and body, in contrast with the belief in the Western medicine where the body is completely separated from the mind in terms of disease progression and healing. Recent studies showing the different benefits of mind-body therapy has captured the interest of modern Western medicine practitioners and experts.
The main goal of Mind-Body Therapy includes removing stress from the body to maintain a harmonious functioning of the body. It includes healing of the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual state. In Mind-Body Therapy, the patient is taught to remove and disregard distractions and enter a state of mind wherein his full focus and concentration is on his body. The premise of mind-body therapy is that, in this state of consciousness, patients may be able to improve their health.
Methods to Relieve Physical, Emotional and Mental Effects of Cancer
Stress greatly affects the behavior and leads to negative effects on our body. For example, hostility and anxiety may cause disruption in the heart and immune function, leading to coronary heart disease and abnormal cholesterol levels. High blood pressure is also reported to be caused by feelings of hopelessness.
Mind-Body Therapy offers a lot of methods to control the stress levels in the body. These methods include biofeedback, where people are trained to control heart rate, blood pressure and other bodily functions which usually happen involuntarily and without control of an individual. Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help people acknowledge and manage their thoughts in order to counter the negative thoughts by creating positive ones. Relaxation techniques include visual imagery, body awareness, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, and spirituality.
Evidences Related To Mind-Body Therapy and Cancer
In 1996, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Technology Assessment Panel determined that hypnosis alleviated cancer-related pain. The most common side effects of chemotherapy in cancer, specifically colon cancer, are chronic and procedural-related pain. A study of breast cancer patients found that patients who have undergone hypnosis have shown to experience less pain. Additionally, patients receiving hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy showed that fatigue experienced by patients did not increase over time.
Sleep disturbance can be experienced by cancer patients due to depression, pain, fatigue and other side effects of treatment and medications. In a study, it has been shown that cancer patients receiving weekly sessions of hypnosis showed fewer hot flashes and also reported fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, leading to a better sleep quality.
Around 70-80% of patients undergoing chemotherapy also experiences nausea and vomiting as a side effect. Study shows evidence that hypnosis can decrease anticipatory vomiting in children undergoing chemotherapy, and in women with breast cancer who have received hypnosis prior to surgery.
There are various ways to treat cancer nowadays, some proving more effective than others. With more and more evidences proving the positive effects of Mind-Body Therapy in the palliative care for cancer patients, we get a broader understanding of our own bodies, how they function, and how some of the best means for healing can be born out of our awareness of our own minds. The promising results and reports about mind-body therapy just prove us that somehow, we can still gain control of our bodies and lives, even in the face of cancer.