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Complementary therapies to help you feel good

Some therapists have services designed for women with breast cancer, while others offer more general services. These could include: acupuncture, aromatherapy, art therapy, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, massage, meditation, music therapy, reiki, reflexology, tai chi, and yoga

How can complementary therapies help me?

Complementary therapies can help with both the emotional and physical symptoms of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Many women with MBC use complementary medicine. 

We cannot guess what will work for you, but here are some approaches that have helped other women, and that may help you as well. Bear in mind that these approaches are not a replacement for medical care, but something extra you can do. You should always inform your doctor about any complementary therapies you are taking.

Complementary therapies are only an addition to clinically approved therapies.

Types of complementary therapies

These are listed in alphabetical order.

How to choose the right complementary therapist

Once you have decided to add complementary treatment to your conventional cancer therapy, it is important to choose the right therapist.

Some practices will have services designed for women with breast cancer, while others offer more ‘general’ services. If these practices are new to you, you can try out something once or twice and find out if it helps you. 

You will need to check the credentials of practitioners and ensure they are experienced and qualified. Regulatory organisations can provide a list of registered therapists, including information about the training they’ve had, their insurance policy, and how long they’ve been practicing.

It may be a good idea to seek a recommendation from a trusted friend or healthcare professional.

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A

  1. Acupuncture – is an ancient Chinese treatment that involves putting fine needles into different parts of your body at particular points. The needles are painless, they are left in place between 10–30 minutes, stimulated occasionally, and then removed. Acupuncture is used to treat a range of pain conditions, and can also help you sleep better. It is thought the needles can improve your overall feelings of well-being.

  2. Aromatherapy – is the use of essential oils taken from flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, roots and bark. The idea behind aromatherapy is that each essential oil has its own properties and can provide many health benefits.

  3. Art therapy – is a way of expressing specific emotional or physical issues through art. It aims to help you express yourself in a safe environment, using art materials to help with personal growth and development. It may be very helpful for people who are uncomfortable with touch or talk therapies.

H

  1. Homeopathy – Homeopathic remedies are made from plant, mineral and animal substances. 

  2. Hypnotherapy – enables you to enter a deep state of relaxation by concentrating on specific feelings, thoughts or sensations. It is considered that hypnotherapy can help people cope with their illness and reduce depression, anxiety and stress.

M

  1. Massage therapy – a registered massage therapist can stimulate circulation and help to relax you. Massage can alleviate pain, stiffness, discomfort, stress and anxiety. Several types of massage therapies exist including Swedishdeep tissueShiatsu and sports massage. Therapists may treat your whole body or concentrate on specific parts, such as your head, neck and shoulders.

  2. Meditation – is a form of deep relaxation, where you find a quiet place away from the distractions of daily life to help your mind and body become calm and relaxed. There are many different practices of meditation and all are forms of mindfulnessMindfulness is not attached to any faith. It just means being aware and present in each moment. Yoga is a practice of moving meditation.

  3. Music therapy – involves the use of music and sound to help you express your emotions to cope with the disease and your treatment.

N

  1. Naturopathy – refers to the use of natural therapies to promote health and well-being. It includes approved natural healing practices such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal medicine.

R

  1. Reflexology – means applying pressure and massage to areas on your feet and hands. It is thought that reflex areas exist in your feet that ‘link’ to specific parts of your body, and its aim is to help people with cancer relax, relieve pain and lift their mood.

  2. Reiki – is an ancient Japanese healing technique. It involves a practitioner placing their hands lightly on your body or just above your body to channel energy fields to concentrate on helping you on a physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual level. Some people with cancer feel it can help them cope with difficult situations and feel deeply relaxed.

T

  1. Tai chi – this ancient Chinese practice combines yoga and meditation. It involves a series of movements, with the entire body in constant motion. All the movements are slow and graceful, and it can help reduce stress and increase flexibility.

Y

  1. Yoga – involves a series of stretches or postures, combined with breathing to improve oxygen and blood supply. There are several types of yoga including Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga. Some can build strength and balance whilst others focus more on relaxing, meditation and breathing.