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Cervical Cancer

Complementary approaches for cervical cancer

Complementary approaches to dealing with cancer have not been subject to the same kind of rigorous testing as conventional medicine so their effects are not measured or proven in the same way. Some people use complementary approaches, such as Reiki, meditation or homeopathic remedies, in addition to conventional medicine during an illness, or to promote their psychological well-being and to help relieve side effects from treatments. Complementary approaches can be quite expensive and many are not usually available on the NHS.

Some of the women we interviewed had used complementary approaches after their treatment to help them in their recovery. A few said that had they known about their benefits they would have used them as a complement to their medical treatment. Others said they doubted the effectiveness of complementary approaches and preferred to only use conventional medicine.

Two of the women interviewed had used homeopathic medicine to help their body recover from the after effects of their radiotherapy treatment. One of these women had been sceptical of the benefits of complementary approaches but had since found them extremely helpful in aiding her recovery from her radio-radio-chemotherapy treatment. She advised that others use a personal recommendation when choosing a homeopathic doctor. A third woman had used plant based HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for the menopause which she had found beneficial.

 

She describes how she used homeopathic remedies after her radiotherapy treatment.

She describes how she used homeopathic remedies after her radiotherapy treatment.

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 43
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I went to see a homeopathist actually and that's right I did do quite a lot of treatments to help myself cope with that afterwards. She was putting me on monthly sort of homeopathic medication. I had been going to her in the past anyway but she just gave me masses of things to help my body fight the after effects of the radiotherapy. Because when I was having radiotherapy it was pointless taking anything, that was so powerful it was just going to negate anything else I was taking so it was afterwards, she just gave me loads of stuff to take and I actually sent off to different companies and you know I was drinking aloe vera juice and I was taking sort of kelp tablets and all sorts of things and marine stuff, strange things off the bottom of oceans across the world. And I tried to do it sort of fairly intelligently because it is quite expensive you know you end up sort of paying quite a bit for this sort of stuff so I was determined that I was going to give my body back what I thought it could benefit from. So yeah I had a few months of doing those sort of things.
 

She believes that using complementary approaches after her radio-chemotherapy treatment has...

She believes that using complementary approaches after her radio-chemotherapy treatment has...

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 27
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I don't know, when I meet people now, I mean I stopped my treatments at the end of last year and I'm back to full time work now and I think I, people that sort of see me think oh my God I can't believe you've had all your treatment and things. And I have to, I do think that a large part of it is down to the fact that I've had acupuncture and homeopathy and watching my diet and things like that. I think it's got to be. 

It's difficult to tell whether or not your energy levels have gone up because of the acupuncture or whether or not you generally get like that anyway. But I think that anything that makes you feel good and feel relaxed when you, you know after you've had it done has got to be a good thing really.

One of the benefits of using complementary approaches is the opportunity it gives to patients to have extra time during a consultation to talk about their concerns. One woman describes how using an acupuncturist had been both beneficial in reducing her post-operative pain and had helped her emotionally.

 

She describes how she has found complementary approaches useful in coping with her post-operative...

She describes how she has found complementary approaches useful in coping with her post-operative...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 41
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I think one thing I did while I was on sick leave the second time was I started looking at complementary therapies. The first thing I did was went to have acupuncture, specifically for the pain which I went to see somebody who was very local which was great because it's close and he's a GP as well so I had the confidence in his judgement. I'm not implying that other acupuncturists aren't very good and very well trained but that's how it helped me. And it did actually seem to help the pain and it wasn't, sometimes acupuncture can have a very good effect for back pain and things very quickly but my pain it didn't do that it was too complicated I think. But it did help me to reduce the painkillers and I think if any sort of complementary treatment is holistic, and it's helped me on other levels as well I think emotionally and that sort of thing and of course one of the reasons why this person doesn't work full time as a GP is he likes to have time with his patients and you're sort of lying there for an hour or so having your treatment and you talk to him as well about all sorts of things and that has a great benefit in itself I think. And since then I've looked into all sorts of other types of complementary therapy, herbal therapies and things like Bach Flower remedies and I've started learning Reiki myself, I went to a Reiki healer who helped a lot and I started learning that and things like meditation and relaxation and the whole sort of thing that can help people really.

A few women had tried Reiki (a form of spiritual healing) and believed it had a positive effect. Others had experienced forms of spiritual healing. One woman tried this once but felt she had had no immediate benefits. Another woman commented that although she was sceptical about its contribution to her physical recovery, spiritual healing had helped her to think positively when she was diagnosed with advanced cancer. A few other women had tried Reiki (a form of spiritual healing) and believed it had a positive effect. A woman who had an interest in Buddhism had found spiritual support a considerable help in enabling her to understand and give meaning to her diagnosis of cancer.

Some of the women interviewed had used aromatherapy, relaxation aids or they had started meditation. Two women had found yoga helpful in coping with stress before and during treatment and one with postoperative pain.

A few women had used visualisation techniques during their treatment. One woman mentioned that during her radiotherapy treatment she imagined she was a soldier on horseback in a battlefield with a bow and arrow fighting the cancer cells.

 

She describes why she used visualisation techniques during her radiotherapy treatment.

She describes why she used visualisation techniques during her radiotherapy treatment.

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 43
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So I think looking at things positively and what's happened is so vital to fighting it. That's what everybody seemed to say to me. I think, I can't remember whether it was the young nurses at the cancer clinic, they'd sort of say "Well when you're there focus on the cancer and just see it as something that's leaving your body when you're having the treatment." And I did, I kind of, I did sort of visualise these sort of cancer cells which, while I was actually in the treatment and I kind of almost willed them away while I was having the treatment. And I did, I did feel that there were other things to sort of to work on rather than 'oh I'm just lying here as you know a human body which is having some sort of treatment you know there's going to be chemical reaction', I definitely didn't just sort of feel that there was that sort of thing going on. I felt, well I emotionally and psychologically can contribute to this.

Another woman explains the changes she had made to her diet. Others said they continued to eat as healthily as they had done before but increased their intake of healthy food in their diet. Two women said they ate less healthily for a while after treatment because they felt that life was short and they wanted to treat themselves.

 

She describes the changes she has made to her diet after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

She describes the changes she has made to her diet after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 27
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I then went out then and bought things like the Optimum Nutrition Bible and books likethat which actually goes through specific foods that can help certain cancers. So cervical cancer like papaya and butternut squash, anything sort of beta carotene, things like that are very good. And my homeopath actually backed that up and I'm on a special diet where I can't eat things like tomatoes which are supposed to be fantastic if you don't have cancer, if you're trying to prevent it, but people that have had cancer treatment tend to have quite high acidity in their bodies. And things like mushrooms which sort of put your kidneys under a lot more stress so I can't have mushrooms. Anything like sea food, if you're going through chemotherapy anything that can obviously bring food poisoning on is a very dangerous things because your system is, your immune system is very low. So no sea food or things like that pork because pork tends to have more sort of bacteria in the meat and on the meat. And so it's things like that that I've suddenly started looking at a lot closer than I ever did before. I mean I just, I'd just eat anything before other than offal. 

So I think you do, I think you do because you want to, I think it's a really natural response to have that when you're diagnosing something you want to do absolutely everything you can to make sure that your recovery is as probable as it can be. 

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Last reviewed July 2017.

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