So what is holistic cancer treatment?
“Holistic cancer treatment” is a phrase that evokes a wide range of responses from patients, health care providers and casual observers. Responses range from confusion and skepticism to hope and optimism. The diverse range of responses is due, in large part, to a lack of definition.
Given the conflicting definitions put forth by proponents and skeptics, maybe it’s better to define what holistic cancer treatment is not. After all, the best way to dispel misconceptions is to address them head on.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not a Passing Fad
The roots of holistic medicine extend to ancient civilizations the world over, including the teachings of Socrates. The modern term “holism” was introduced in 1926 by Jan Christiaan Smuts. Holistic wellness gained popular awareness throughout the 1970s and has grown in mainstream adoption during the 21st century. Evidence of holistic health’s permanence is everywhere, from the prevalence of yoga studios to the growing availability of organic foods. Treating cancer holistically is just one way the health care profession has adopted the mind-body-spirit approach to health and wellness.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not a Cure-All
Skeptics often accuse holistic practitioners of promoting holistic treatment as a cure-all. But holistic treatment is not a miracle cure, as any responsible holistic practitioners will tell you. Similar to conventional medicine, holistic cancer treatment is no guarantee of a cure. Where the two differ, however, is that a holistic approach targets the cause of illness—not just the symptoms—by focusing on the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical elements of each person.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not Voodoo
For patients unfamiliar with holistic treatment, the word “holistic” can evoke images of exotic rituals and mysterious incantations. It’s funny how the unknown activates the wildest parts of imagination. In reality, holistic treatment practices are rather un-exotic. Typical treatment involves common sense practices like adopting a natural diet, detoxification, immune enhancement, guided exercise, relaxation techniques, meditation and counseling. Even alternative health practices like acupuncture and massage therapy are widely accepted as part of our mainstream.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not Wishful Thinking
Critics of alternative cancer treatment argue that there is no evidence it works. They portray holistic medicine as little more than wishful thinking. In fact, many patients discover the benefits of holistic cancer therapy after traditional cancer treatments fail. Thousands of patients have enjoyed a longer life expectancy and an improved quality of life after undergoing alternative cancer treatments. Research about holistic treatments is continuously improving, which contributes to the process of expanding our knowledge of how to prevent, treat and cure cancer.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not for Everyone
Some cancers respond well to conventional medicine. Some, unfortunately, do not. Similarly, some patients respond well to the physical and emotional side effects of traditional cancer treatment, and some do not.
Many patients prefer holistic cancer therapy as an alternative to the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Still other patients favor treatment methodologies with which they’re more familiar. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you should choose a course of treatment that is specifically tailored to your cancer, your overall wellness, your body and your preferences.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not Opposed to Traditional Cancer Treatments
Above all else, holistic treatment is about taking a “big picture” view of your health. This means looking not just at the symptoms of cancer, but at the causes as well. It means addressing other health and wellness issues, not just cancer. And it means employing an integrative approach to healing, one that combines conventional and alternative treatments, techniques and procedures to restore you to state of wellness and complete functionality.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not Disapproved by Medical Doctors
Many people assume holistic practitioners are not doctors. In fact, many licensed physicians, oncologists, psychologists and other medical professionals provide holistic cancer treatment options or oversee holistic practices. It’s true some holistic providers are not doctors, just as some of your health care providers in a hospital are not M.D.s. When visiting an alternative cancer treatment clinic, ask about the training, credentials and experience of the center’s providers—just as you would when visiting a doctor’s office or hospital.
Holistic Cancer Treatment is Not “One Size Fits All”
Dozens of techniques are categorized as holistic practices—rightly or wrongly. Various practices—from acupuncture, yoga, and massage to reiki, aromatherapy and magnet therapy—often get lumped in as holistic treatment. But not all practices labeled “holistic” are necessarily part of a holistic approach to cancer treatment, nor are all holistic treatments equally effective. Be sure to ask your provider lots of questions when developing your cancer treatment plan to ensure that you choose techniques appropriate for you.
Conclusion: Holistic Cancer is Not What You Think
The task of defining a term or phrase is often a struggle for control. The effort to define—and often misdefine—holistic cancer treatment is no less of a struggle. By addressing myths and misconceptions head on, we can have a more open-minded discussion about holistic cancer therapy’s benefits.
Peter Ewens is the President and CEO of Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, which offers an integrative Comprehensive Cancer Care program in Fairfax, Virginia. His focus is on educating cancer patients and supporters about alternative cancer treatments and holistic approaches to healing.
Editor: Alexandra Grace
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