Complementary & Alternative Therapies

The following text is extracted in part from the publication, You & Your Prostate, Published by the Australian Government, Department of Veterans' Affairs, 2006

Many people us complementary therapies in addition to more conventional forms of medical treatment. Complementary therapies are interventions used to complement medical treatments. Complementary therapies can help with anxiety, pain and other symptoms of distress. They can improve physical and emotional wellbeing when used in conjunction with medical care. This combination of complementary and medical therapies hase been called integrative medicine.

The importance of complementary therapies having a place in care is recognised. It is always important to let your doctor know what treatments you are considering. It is not recommended that you put off medical treatment for prostate cancer becasue you are trying a complementary therapy.

Why do people use complementary therapies?
Complementary therapies are often gentler and less invasive than medical treatments. They tend to focus on strengthening health and wellbeing rather than attacking illness. Users of complementary therapies feel they have more control over their illness and are taking an active part in the healing process. In many cases, users are not looking for prevention or control of the cancer, but rather to alleviate symptoms.


Natural Products
Traditional healers have used natural products such as medicinal plants and mixtures of herbs for thousands of years. However, many have not been tested for effectiveness and safety using conventional western scientific methods, and so often their effectiveness is unknown.

An example of a medicial product used for benign prostate disease is 'saw palmetto', from the plam tree Serenoa repens. Indians in southern America used an extract from the berry of the tree to treat testicle and prostate problems as early as 1700s. Saw palmetto contains substances that are active against male hormones. Men experiencing urinary symptoms due to an enlarged prostate report an improvement in both their symptoms and urine flow. Side effects of this product are mild, and symptoms improve by about 25 per cent.

Always discuss the use of natural products with your doctor.

Relaxation and Meditation
Looking after your emotional wellbeing is as important as looking after your body. Techniques including meditation, relaxation and visualisation can reduce stress, anxiety and improve quality of life. Regular exercise and other enjoyable pastimes can also be effective. Addressing issues that concern or worry you can be an important part of reducing your stress.

Massage Therapy 
Massage can have positive effects on your stress, anxiety and pain levels by enabling you to relax. Massage has been reported to improve mood, energy levels and immune function in cancer patients. There are many kinds of massage therapies such as Reiki and therapeutic touch.

Making a Choice
This publications discusses some forms of complementary therapies, but there are man others. How do you make a choice? The Cancer Council South Australia's leaflet Alternate and Complementary Therapies: making an informed choice provides useful information.

Consider the following questions before making a choice:

  • What are the benefits of this therapy?
  • What are the risks of this therapy?
  • What is the evidence of the usefulness of this therapy?
  • Have many other people with the same type of cancer as mine used this therapy? Can I speak with them?
  • How will this therapy affect my medical treatment?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What are the qualifications of the practitioner?
  • Has the therapy been approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for this purpose?

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