By Leslie Vandever
Cancer is a terrible scourge, killing millions of people every year throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, cancer is the second most common cause of death. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 1,665,540 new cases diagnosed and more than a half-million deaths from cancer this year alone.
Yet because of huge advances in medical science, cancer is no longer necessarily a death sentence. With focused, intense therapy involving chemical drugs or radiation, thousands of people today survive cancer and go on to live vibrant, healthy,happy, and fulfilled lives.
Still, that therapy can sometimes cause unpleasant side effects. Most are temporary, but they can have a significant effect on the patient’s quality of life. Different types of therapy cause different side-effects—and not everyone gets them—but the most common include:
- nausea or vomiting
- mouth sores
- mouth or throat pain (stomatitis)
- skin soreness (dermatitis)
- constipation or diarrhea
- appetite changes
- hair loss
You may be able to treat some of these side-effects with homeopathy, a type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Homeopathy treats patients with highly diluted substances, usually from plants, minerals, and animals that may trigger the body’s innate, natural healing response. Under the theory of “like cures like,” homeopathy practitioners believe that a substance that causes symptoms in large doses can, in tiny amounts, treat those same symptoms. The substance is diluted to such an infinitesimal amount it’s rendered non-toxic.
Note: do not use homeopathic preparations before conventional cancer treatments (such as for preventative purposes). They may interfere with the cell-destroying effects of those treatments. Use them only after treatment if symptoms appear.
Ways Homeopathy May Help
- Individualized treatment. Visiting a homeopathic practitioner can be much like visiting a conventional, or allopathic, doctor. She’ll take a detailed history and perform an exam, and spend a significant amount of time talking to you. Homeopathy is a highly individual treatment—what works for one symptom in one person may not work for another. Some people believe that because homeopathy is such a positive, gentle, life-affirming type of treatment it helps patients relax and become more positive about their illness and their body’s ability to heal itself. The mind is a very powerful medicine.
- Homeopathic preparations: Some may be helpful in treating or preventing specific side effects, though there have been few critical, peer-reviewed trials to prove effectiveness. For instance, a preparation of mistletoe may help stimulate the immune system, reduce fatigue and improve quality of life. Traumeel S (a proprietary complex homeopathic medicine), used as a mouthwash, was shown in one study to be more effective than a placebo in preventing stomatitis from chemo. In another study, topical calendula seemed to work better than trolamine (a topical agent not containing corticosteroids) for prevention of radiotherapy-induced skin irritation.
Other symptoms may also respond well to homeopathic preparations. Arsenic alba, Mag phos or Colocynth may be helpful in the treatment of stomach problems. Rhux tox may help with aching pain.
Many thousands of people all over the world believe that homeopathy has helped them cope with the side-effects of cancer therapy. Talk with your health care provider about how it might help you.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.
Cancer Facts and Figures, 2014. (n.d.) American Cancer Society. Retrieved on August 13, 2014 from http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancerfactsfigures2014/
Chemotherapy Side Effects Sheets. (2012, December 1) National Cancer Institute. Retrieved on August 13, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/physicaleffects/chemo-side-effects
Conditions, A to Z. (n.d.) British Homeopathy Association. Retrieved August 16, 2014 from http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/conditions-a-z/