1. Home
  2. Breast Cancer Guide
  3. Complementary Medicine  
Main content

Complementary Medicine for Breast Cancer

    • Complementary therapies engage the mind, body and spirit in the healing process. They help round out your treatment program and can be used for the rest of your life to help keep you healthy. They are meant to complement, rather than replace, the medical care you receive from your doctors and other health care providers. Talk to your doctor, nurse or social worker about complementary therapies available at your hospital or in your community.

    • Guided imagery

    • This gentle technique uses the engaging power of imagery to assist in your healing. You visualize places, activities, sensations and/or experiences in your mind that help enhance your sense of wellbeing. It is a safe and easy, yet powerful, tool to relieve tension, lower stress, improve sleep, and cope with anxiety and other emotions. By becoming attuned to your body and your breathing rhythm, you can send warm energy to parts of your body that may be tense, gather up the tension and breathe it out. Deep breathing can have a cleansing action to help you imagine your body fighting the cancer cells. You may want to listen to guided imagery audio tapes or CD's or make an appointment with someone trained in guided imagery.

    • Massage

    • Massage should be performed by a certified massage therapist who is specially trained to work with breast cancer patients. Massage is a powerful therapeutic tool to help relieve muscle pain and tension. It also provides care and comfort, enhances well-being and fosters nurturing. There are many types of massage therapies. Craniosacral massage, for example, uses light touch as the therapist monitors the rhythm of the craniosacral (brain and spinal) system to detect restrictions and imbalances. Delicate manipulations are used to improve the central nervous system and foster a deep sense of calm and well being. Massage therapists can use different degrees of pressure depending on your condition and preference. Please discuss with your massage therapist how deep you would like your tissue to be massaged before he or she begins.

    • Acupuncture

    • Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese technique based on the belief that the life force or “chi” flows through channels in the body known as meridians or pathways. Needles as thin as a human hair are inserted at specific points along these meridians to stimulate, disperse and regulate the flow of chi. The goal is to restore a healthful energetic balance, alleviate discomfort and treatment side effects, and support the immune system. Chinese herbs may be given in addition to acupuncture. If you choose to explore acupuncture, please let your doctor and health care team know. Remember it takes more than one session to achieve results.

    • Yoga

    • Yoga, meaning "union," is a form of exercise that integrates the mind, body and spirit. It uses stretching, movement, breathing techniques and meditation to create a state of peacefulness, as well as physical and mental well-being. It may enhance quality of life by reducing stress and increasing feelings of relaxation.

    • Art therapy

    • Expressive art therapists work with your imagination and creative spirit to help you access healing images. Drawing a picture, creating a collage, writing a poem, listening to music or making a scrapbook may help heal the spirit and improve quality of life. They can also help relieve cancer treatment related symptoms, such as nausea or fatigue, and help you understand or cope better with sadness, anxiety and other emotions. Art therapists can listen to your unique story and show you how to express your feelings in the most comfortable and appropriate way for you.

    • Herbal and nutritional supplements, vitamins and anti-oxidants

    • Taking herbal and nutritional supplements is appropriate when prescribed by a holistic physician or other practitioner who specializes in complementary therapies and other supplements. It is very important that you discuss this with your medical oncologist and other doctors and get their approval before beginning any supplements. Some supplements may interfere with your cancer treatments.

      It is also important to purchase the highest quality products. The Health and Healing Center at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco carries seven lines of doctor-recommended supplements. Each product is well researched and selected by physician and practitioner juries to be of the highest quality in its category. You can call 415-600-HEAL (4325) to order supplements that can be sent to you, or receive a consultation about how they can help your recovery.

    • Sexuality

    • The issue of sexuality is sensitive for many women. It can be a painful subject when you are newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment or simply trying to get on with your life. The changes to your body and your sexual drive are some of the most difficult issues to talk about with your partner, friends, or even your doctor or therapist. Sexual thoughts and feelings are an important part of everyday life. It affects our zest for living, our self-image, and our relationships with others. Letting your partner know what you are feeling can help you reconnect and find new ways to satisfy your needs for love and intimacy. It may also be helpful to go for short-term counseling as a couple or by yourself. For more information on cancer and sexuality, refer to the “Coping” section of this notebook. You can also find lots of help on-line through the American Cancer Society (ACS) website www.cancer.orgOpens new window. or by calling 1-800-ACS-2345 for the ACS brochure, Sexuality and Cancer for the Woman Who Has Cancer and Her Partner. The information in this section is not meant to replace the individual attention, advice, and treatment plan of your oncologist and medical team.