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In Focus: Complementary therapies

Dear All

I'd like to start doing In Focus posts on the forum. The idea is that there would be a topic for the month. At the start of each month I'd do an introductory post for the broad topic with some links to information. Then each week for the rest of the month there would be further information on areas related to the topic.

So, for example, for February the topic is Complementary Therapies (as you may have guessed from this post's title). I'll put some links to useful information below. Then it would be really great if you could comment to share your experience and knowledge for the community to see, and also to let me know anything you'd like to see in the following weeks regarding related areas eg aromatherapy, herbal supplements, naturopathy etc.

They idea isn't to provide an exhaustive list but just some starting points for information and start a discussion where you can share what you know. The links will be to safe, reliable websites so that those of you who would like information but avoid Google have some links you can click in good faith.

Here are some useful links for anyone interested in complementary therapies:

The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine is an NHS hospital (part of UCLH), which offers a Complementary Cancer Care Service to complement conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. You can ask to be referred for NHS treatment although funding may depend on your local CCG decisions. uclh.nhs.uk/OurServices/Ser...

Many of you know Penny Brohn UK, who run free courses on living well with cancer through an integrated approach: pennybrohn.org.uk/ They are based in Bristol and the courses are mainly residential, but they also provide days in different regions.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre has a really useful database of Integrative Medicine which lists herbs and supplements, their uses, how they work, side effects and interactions here: mskcc.org/cancer-care/diagn...

To ensure your safety during complementary treatment, it is vital to use a qualified practitioner. There will be registers of appropriately trained professionals for different therapies. If you have any problems identifying the appropriate register please get in touch with me and I'll be happy to find out for you. Cancer Research UK has good suggestions of questions to ask your therapist here: cancerresearchuk.org/about-...

I hope this is a helpful starting point for information. If you have any questions or queries, or any suggestions for topics, please do get in touch.

Best wishes

Anna

Ovacome Support Service Manager

36 Replies
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Great idea! Thank you for the links Anna.

I’ve found acupuncture to be very useful in helping with chemo side effects and also to aid relaxation and general well being. It’s important to have a good relationship with your practitioner, mine provides a lot of helpful insight.

Best, D

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Thanks Dee, that's really helpful. Maybe one of the posts later in the month could be about acupuncture, especially as it is available on the NHS.

Best wishes

Anna

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This is a brilliant idea thank you. I use many therapies so have much I can share,

Nicky x

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That's great Nicky, please do comment and share information on the posts if you have time. I've seen in the past how helpful the forum members have found your posts regarding your supplements and other remedies you take.

Best wishes

Anna

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Thank you Anna, I will do.

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I use turmeric, and follow the research-based guidelines given by the Turmeric Support group UK on Facebook. I'd heard a couple of positive reports about its benefits and went on the premise that it is cheap and easy to obtain, and nobody is benefitting from telling me it works if it doesn't. (I am very suspicious of these things). It is anti-inflammatory, has blood thinning properties and has been linked to reduction in tumour size in some studies.

It's not possible for me to say whether or not it is working for me as I am currently NED. The one thing I can report is that when I went for bloods after starting using it I was asked if I was on blood thinning medication, and when I said no, the phlebotomist replied that she must have found a really good vein then. It was music to my ears after 8 cycles of carbo/taxol and watching my veins shrivel!

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Hello bluepeterella

Thanks very much for this information. There's a lot of interest in turmeric at the moment so I'll definitely include it in a later post this month, either as part of herbal supplements information or on its own. It's great to hear how well you're doing.

Best wishes

Anna

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I had weekly reflexology for a month after last chemo. Not only was it a lovely treat to be cocooned in a warm, aromatherapy-scented room but it really helped my ankle and knee aches and pains.

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Hello Nicky911

Thank you very much for your comment. The benefits are often beyond the therapy itself itself, as you mention. It's the whole experience that can help, taking the time out, doing something nice, being looked after. I'll remember to mention it in later posts when mentioning the 'hands-on' therapies.

Best wishes

Anna

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Sounds like a very good idea, i'm always looking at different things on internet but never try them as don't know what's safe to use so this would be helpful.

Hyacinth

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Dear Hyacinth1

Many thanks for your feedback. If there's anything you'd like information on but you're unsure about, do get in touch with me and I'm happy to find out any information you need.

Best wishes

Anna

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Hi,

Thanks for reply. I have been very interested in the turmeric with Pepperidge but not sure if I should use as I am on blood thinner for 6 months after a blood clot, is it safe for me to use?

Hyacinth

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Hello Hyacinth

Would this be turmeric with black pepper? I'll need to find out where you can get specialist advice on this from (and you'll definitely need to check with your consultant), but I just want to make sure I'm looking into the right thing for you.

Best wishes

Anna

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Hi,

Yes that's correct,

Hyacinth

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Thanks Hyacinth. I'll look into this and come back to you.

Best wishes

Anna

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Hello Hyacinth

I've looked on the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Centre database and it states absolutely that turmeric should not be taken if you are on blood thinners, as it will put you at increased risk of bleeding. The information is here:

mskcc.org/cancer-care/integ...

If you want to take it once you're off blood thinners, definitely check with your consultant as they'll need to advise you whether they think it would be safe, and if so, how long after finishing the blood thinners you would need to wait.

I hope this information is helpful.

Best wishes

Anna

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Thank you for information.

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Anna,

I love this subject! For me having reflexology at my very first chemo session (& every subsequent one after!) was wonderful. I’ve also had some great massage/reiki treatments. There are a lot more spas including treatments for cancer patients. It’s so nice being pampered when you are feeling so rubbish xxx

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Dear Sarah

That's great to hear. Did you have reflexology as part of the service at your hospital? It's so encouraging that complementary treatments are becoming more easily available. As you say, it's a time when the pampering is even more needed.

Best wishes

Anna

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4 complementary treatments then you could pay x

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Fantastic topic! I use Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tumeric, hot lemon juice and exercise which are hopefully helping along with the incredible work done by gynae onc and onc!

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Hello Perthgirl

These treatments will definitely becoming up in later posts for this topic - please do contribute if you have time, it would be really helpful to hear about your experiences.

Best wishes

Anna

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Great idea!!

At The Christie, there was a complementary therapist on the chemo unit offering massage etc and during my first treatment (I was terrified) she did a very simple, shoulder massage which was incredibly calming and helpful... I think such nurturing touch can be so important in the midst of invasive medical interventions.

I went on one of the Penny Brohn 'Living Well' residential courses in Bristol and really recommend it... when I was living nearby, I was also subsequently able to do a nutrition / cookery course there and tried both shiatsu and healing sessions there.

I found a series of reflexology sessions really helpful post chemo (the practitioner had done additional training at The Christie and also worked at a local hospice)- I had been a bit skeptical but believe it really helped with ittermitment bowel issues as well as general well-being and found it very relaxing.

I'm not sure if this falls within the scope of the discussion, but I am convinced of the need to take Vitamin D supplement through the winter (I have a spray which i use in the morning). I had been tested and found to have very low levels post chemo. There are quite a few emerging studies about the possible role of Vit D in reducing inflammation etc and consequent links with cancers. Its difficult to get enough vit D where I live from diet and sunlight!!

Sx

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Dear Sunfleury

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, this is really helpful. It's great to hear that The Christie have such easy access to complementary therapies.

The Penny Brohn courses seem to offer enormous benefit for so many people. I visited the centre 2 weeks ago and it was really useful to learn that they are able to offer some services regionally too.

Vitamin D is definitely within the scope - I think one of the subsequent posts may well be on herbal and vitamin supplements so I'll post some information on Vitamin D.

Best wishes

Anna

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Hi. There's no contact info/website included yet on herbal medicine. I'm a qualified medical herbalist having done a degree and undertaken the clinical training required. There are a couple of professional bodies in the UK that cover medical herbalists and they could be included for more info on how to find a qualified herbalist. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to include a link here.

I see lots of questions about particular herbal supplements. Sometimes a supplement may be needed but going to see a herbalist can also be part of the therapy. Many people find talking to a herbalist to be therapeutic as the appointments are much longer than you would have with professionals in the NHS and you have time to discuss things in much more detail. Herbalists generally talk through your whole health picture and will be able to advise on nutrition alongside the herbs and existing treatments. They are also trained to look into the possible contraindications so will look at prescribing herbs that can be used alongside existing treatments.

I take herbal medicine, but even though I am qualified myself I went to another herbalist to design my prescription for me as she had worked with a cancer charity for 20 years. She also encouraged me to listen to my doctors more than I was doing! I found the herbs helped with my sense of wellbeing and my energy levels.

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Hello Katfish

Thank you so much for the information regarding your experience. It's really interesting to hear that you sought another professional opinion although you are qualified yourself. It's great to hear how much the herbs helped you. As you say, the consultation can also offer therapeutic benefits.

One of the subsequent posts will be on herbalism and supplements so I'll post information then, but please feel free to leave any information on herbalism that you feel will be helpful. For each complementary therapy we look at I'll leave links to the appropriate professional body.

Best wishes

Anna

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Hi Anna

There are several professional bodies for medical herbalists. I think the biggest one in the UK is the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, of which I am a member. They have members in other countries too including USA, Canada, Australia, NZ and across Europe. There's a 'find a herbalist' function on their website where you can search by location.

nimh.org.uk

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Hello Katfish

That is really helpful, thank you. I'll also link to the NIMH in the separate post on herbs and supplements in the next few weeks.

Many thanks

Anna

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I have used various complemtary therapies since my diagnosis.

At the start, I researched published papers and all that I could find on supplements, those that I could access, and slso those that had research behind them.

I upped my game last year when I had a recurrence ( I have listed them on my page ) and they made a difference to my ca125 levels, which started to fall significantly even before chemo.

I also think the body and mind need to be taken care of. And we might find the subconscious reason we are ill. Maybe emotions that are blocked or stress.

Hypnotherapy worked very well for me and so still go to sessions now. It is excellent for many things: fear, anxiety, negative thoughts etc etc.

Then I think relaxation of the body and mind are fo vital. Reiki, massage, and reflexology have formed part of my arsenal, along with meditation.

There are many things we can use to nurture ourselves. And boost our immune response.

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Thank you Nicky, that is really interesting and helpful. I couldn't see the list on your page so I've put the link to your post detailing your regime below, if this is out of date do let me know and I'll edit this reply accordingly.

Nicky's list of supplements: healthunlocked.com/ovacome/...

Many thanks for sharing all your knowledge with the forum.

Best wishes

Anna

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Thank you!

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I just want to say that it’s so freeing and refreshing that ovacome are supporting our use of complementary therapies as part of our integrated programmes.

I have received some NHS funded complementary therapy and been disappointed that they are directed to use it to induce relaxation only and aren’t allowed to speak about clinical effectiveness. So silly when what we what is to draw on things to maximal benefit.

I don’t want a body pretending they support and offer complementary therapy when they are limiting its use.

Thank you ovacome for really supporting your users.

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Re. Complementary support, Yes to Life is an information charity with a helpline to support cancer patients wanting to supplement their treatment with complementary approaches. It has a very useful website with amongst other things a directory of practitioners, clinics etc which is arranged geographically.

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Great topic! Here in the U.S. in certain states, Naturopathic doctors (ND) are licensed to practice medicine. There is even a designation for those with special training in oncology support. I live in Washington state and will be visiting my ND cancer specialist next week. My last chemo (first line) is this Friday and she will be helping me to rebuild my immune system. I'll be happy to share her suggestions. During treatment I have used L-glutamine powder (30 grams per day) plus Vitamin B6 (100 mg per day) to beat back neuropathy. I also use Magnesium Oxide for constipation. I take about 5000 units of D3 every day. I eat fermented, raw sauerkraut for probiotic activity and drink Kombucha for enzymes. I use homeopathy extensively and well as CBD oil for nausea, sleep, and relaxation. I'm supposed to eat 50 grams of protein per day and drink 1/2 my weight (in ounces) in water. Avoid dairy, wheat, and corn. I have avoided conventional prescriptions and OTC medications for side effects as much as possible. For me, who is sensitive even to Advil, these natural remedies have really helped.

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Dear Kat98116

Thank you for taking the time to comment. As we are a UK-based charity we tend to provide information very much from a UK perspective, so it's great if the forum members from other countries are able to share their experience.

I hope your last chemo and ongoing treatment goes well. If you have time, do let us know how you get on.

Best wishes

Anna

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Yes, there are quite a few of us on here from the states. I love receiving information from around the world....there is so much to learn. I'm only speaking for myself, but I have not found the US forums on OC as informative and balanced as this one....so thank you!

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