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Alternative Approaches to Treating Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma alternative treatment image1Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which attacks the membrane that lines the chest cavity and the lungs. Almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure, mesothelioma is a particularly devastating cancer because it can take up to 40 years to become symptomatic, which means that people may be living with it and yet not be aware. Therefore, by the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, it's usually at an advanced stage, and treatment is less effective. The median life expectancy for a patient suffering from mesothelioma cancer is only four to 18 months.

Traditional methods of treating mesothelioma are the same as for other, more common cancers: surgery to remove the tumor whenever possible, chemotherapy and radiation. Often these therapies will be administered in combination with one another. However, many mesothelioma patients—because of their advanced age and the severity of the cancer—may not be strong enough to withstand the rigors and side effects that may accompany these approaches. Additionally, due to an advanced stage, surgery to remove the tumor is not usually an option.

There are some alternative therapies that can help ease patients' pain and symptoms, as well as counteract the negative side effects of traditional medicine. Massage, yoga, acupuncture and reflexology, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), supplements, meditation and hypnosis have all been explored with degrees of success for mesothelioma patients. TENS therapy, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is also an option for pain relief. This therapy involves no drug interactions, is non-invasive, and has no known harmful side effects. In TENS therapy, electrodes are attached to specific areas on the patient's skin in order to administer an electrical current, and to stimulate the production of endorphins.

Mesothelioma alternative treatment image2Acupuncture can also be used to relieve a patient's pain, as well as to ameliorate some of the side effects,  including nausea, they may experience as a result of chemotherapy and radiation. Meditation,  hypnosis, aromatherapy, massage and yoga can provide relaxation. Other patients have been exploring the world of nutrition and supplements, including herbal treatments like American ginseng and licorice root.

Any of these holistic approaches, or a combination thereof, can improve the patient's overall mind-body wellness and make them feel more comfortable as they live with the disease, whether they have opted to try traditional treatment methods or not. Yet recently one mesothelioma patient has reported success—that is, the actual shrinking and then disappearance of his tumor—after embarking on an integrative journey to treat his cancer.

As reported in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, a 73-year-old man initially underwent a pleurectomy—a surgical procedure to remove the pleura, which is a mesothelial lining of the chest cavity and on the lung. He also had chemotherapy, but the tumor relapsed nonetheless, giving the patient a rather grim prognosis. He then decided to try some holistic therapies, including a mushroom extract and a form of acupuncture known as alternative parasympathetic nerve stimulation therapy. The mushroom extract contained Agaricus blazei Murill Kyowa (ABMK), which has been cultivated in Asia for medicinal use and which has been reported by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as potentially effective in some cancer patients.

Following these treatments, the patient's relapsed tumor decreased significantly over the course of four months, and eventually disappeared altogether. He credits the combination of traditional mesothelioma treatment and alternative therapies for helping rid himself of this devastating cancer, also known as asbestos cancer.

Of course, every case of mesothelioma should be evaluated independently, and an effective treatment for one patient may be wholly ineffective in another. If you are suffering from this rare, but aggressive, cancer, speak with your care providers about the many treatment options that may be available and useful to you.


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