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Cancer prevention & treatment

More patients seek out holistic approach to fight cancer

More people are living with cancer than ever before. Besides seeking medical advances in cancer treatment, patients are using complementary therapies that focus on the mind, body and spirit. These services contribute to a person’s overall health and can boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.

A complementary therapy doesn’t replace the work and expertise of a doctor - nor does it require additional medication. Rather, these services work hand-in-hand with the medical aspect of cancer care and complete the picture of treating the whole person. Stress management, meditation, exercise, breath work and nutrition are examples of complementary therapies.

For someone dealing with cancer, a complementary therapy can help manage the feelings and experiences associated with the various stages of the disease and treatment. Complementary therapies can be used to help manage the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation and help a person move forward when they have completed treatment.

Many cancer patients participate in support groups so they have a network of people they can turn to who are sharing similar experiences. There are different kinds of support groups available to patients and caregivers. Therapeutic journaling and scrapbooking groups provide a hands-on creative approach, while still being able to network with patient and caregivers. There have been numerous studies over the last twenty years about the physical and mental benefits associated with therapeutic journaling.

Good nutrition and exercise are very important in the overall health of an individual and are an important part of the recommended treatment plan for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. Eating the right food can minimize certain side effects associated with some forms of treatment.

Researchers continue to investigate how food choices and nutrition can help prevent cancer or a recurrence of the disease. We know there are certain foods that boost the immune system and influence hormones that fuel cancer growth. Diets that are low in fat reduce the amount of estrogen in the bloodstream. We also now know that obesity has been linked to some cancers as well as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Working with a dietitian, a cancer patient can learn about managing side effects through nutrition and gain tips for planning meals to minimize weight loss or weight gain. Nutrition sessions also provide information about the benefits such as antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber.

Some cancer medications can be very expensive. As a result, there may be high insurance co-payments or financial issues for the patient. Some cancer programs have social workers on staff who are trained to assist patients with Social Security disability, Medicaid and Medicare issues as well as finding financial assistance for patients without insurance coverage.

Cancer patients can also rely on social workers for help in finding other resources such as home health, transportation, support groups and counseling.

Talking to a social worker can alleviate some stress for the patient and their family. It can ensure that a patient is getting the proper care for the best possible outcome.

Complementary therapies also address the impact of cancer on a child. When a parent, a grandparent or loved one has cancer, a child may have many questions. Sometimes, the treatment may interfere with a child’s activities and routine at home. It can be upsetting for the child - and challenging for the parent or caregiver who is worn out from trying to recover from the disease.

This summer, the Edward Cancer Center and the Edward Health and Fitness Center at Seven Bridges will team up to offer Camp Hope, a day camp for kids whose parent, grandparent or caregiver has cancer. With a grant from the Edward Foundation, children ages 5-12 will be able to have a safe, fun week camp experience – at no cost.

Throughout the day, kids will have the chance to get to know other kids who are having similar experiences. Campers will also participate in therapeutic breakout sessions such as gardening, Yoga, martial arts and drumming circles. There will be games, swimming, organized gym days and supervised field trips. Kids don’t have to have a loved one being treated at Edward to take part. Session one is June 25-29. Session two is August 6-10. Please call (630) 527-6363 for more information.

Camp Hope is just one example of how a complementary therapy addresses the mind, body and spirit of a person and family dealing with cancer. Complementary therapies work hand-in-hand with medical treatment and intervention of cancer – and it’s changing the way people look at the disease.

Linda Conlin, a licensed clinical social worker at the Edward Cancer Center, contributed to this article in cooperation with Edward Hospital.


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801 S. Washington, Naperville, IL 60540 • (630) 527-3000

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