Pancreatic cancer patients deserve the treatment and care that makes them feel their best. Sometimes this includes approaches like meditation, yoga or taking dietary supplements — which fall under integrative, complementary or alternative medicine (ICAM) – in addition to conventional medicine. Conventional medicine for pancreatic cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
ICAM goes beyond conventional medicine and is not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Though not a proven treatment, research suggests that some of these approaches may help control symptoms and side effects. Whether ICAM approaches are already incorporated into your treatment plan or you’ve only heard about them, it’s important to know what each entails.
Integrative medicine combines conventional medicine with other forms of medicine that, through research, are proven to be safe and potentially effective. An example of integrative medicine is acupuncture, which can lessen chemotherapy side effects like nausea and pain. Patients typically receive both integrative and conventional medicine at the same healthcare facility.
Like integrative medicine, complementary medicine is used alongside conventional medicine. Examples of complementary medicine include meditation, special teas, spiritual healing, therapeutic massages, relaxation techniques and more. These are often administered separately from the patient’s primary healthcare facility.
Interested in more lifestyle factors that can contribute to better quality of life and clinical outcomes? Watch our free webinar on integrative oncology.
Unlike integrative and complementary medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example would be following a specific diet to try to treat the cancer instead of receiving conventional care. Recent evidence suggests that an alarming percent of Americans believe alternative medicines can cure cancer, whereas scientific data suggest the opposite. There are no alternative medicines that have been shown to effectively treat pancreatic cancer.
If you’re considering ICAM, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare team first. If you’re already following certain ICAM treatments, like taking dietary supplements, let your healthcare team know and ask if it may affect your other treatments. Other questions to raise with your healthcare team include:
- How will integrative, complementary or alternative medicine help me?
- What are the risks?
- What are the potential side effects?
- Will my health insurance cover this approach?