Pancreatic cancer patients deserve the treatment and care that makes them feel better. 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 therapy.
ICAM goes beyond conventional medicine and is not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Although not a proven treatment, research suggests that some of these approaches can help control symptoms and side effects. Whether ICAM approaches are already part of your treatment plan or you’ve only heard of them, it’s important to know what each entails.
Integrative medicine combines conventional medicine with other forms of medicine that, through research, have been shown to be safe and potentially effective. An example of integrative medicine is acupuncture, which can help with chemotherapy side effects like nausea and pain. Patients typically receive both integrative medicine and conventional medicine at the same healthcare facility.
Like integrative medicine, complementary drugs is used alongside conventional medicine. Examples of complementary medicine include meditation, specialty teas, spiritual healing, massage therapy, relaxation techniques and more. These are often administered separately from the patient’s primary healthcare setting.
Interested in other lifestyle factors that can contribute to better quality of life and better clinical outcomes? Watch our free webinar on Integrative Oncology.
Unlike integrative and complementary medicine, alternative medicine is used instead of conventional medicine. An example would be following a specific diet to try to treat cancer instead of receiving conventional care. Recent evidence suggests that an alarming percentage of Americans believe that alternative medicine can cure cancer, while scientific data suggest otherwise. There are no alternative medicines that have been shown to be effective in treating pancreatic cancer.
If you are considering ICAM, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare team first. If you are already taking certain ICAM treatments, such as taking food supplements, tell your healthcare team and ask them if this may affect your other treatments. Here are some other questions to raise with your healthcare team:
- 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?