Holistic Care Involvement in Cancer Recovery

Holistic Care Involvement in Cancer Recovery

By, Craig Murphy

According to a 2019 article on Atlantic.com, pollution has risen almost 14 percent since 2016. The number of days dirty air poses a threat to vulnerable members of the population, especially people who are young, elderly or sick, is also increasing. As climate change leads to more wildfires, air pollution, dangerous weather events, allergy problems, and insect-related or waterborne diseases, individuals with respiratory problems face the greatest risk.

Air Pollution and Health

While the controversy over how to improve the environment continues, there is little doubt that air pollution kills people. Scientists agree that long-term exposure causes illnesses like bronchitis, asthma, emphysema and cancer.  Air pollution causes 1 in 8 deaths around the globe, including 25 percent of deaths from heart attacks and 30 percent of deaths from lung cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory illness. 

Around 92 percent of the world’s population live in places where the air is unhealthy, and even healthy people experience symptoms like coughing or sore throat during physical exertion or outdoor activities. From cell damage and stress to the lungs and heart to a shortened lifespan and cancer, exposure to dirty air can be devastating.

Researchers know pollutants like cigarette smoke and asbestos cause respiratory diseases, but new research suggests they may also increase the number of deaths from breast, pancreatic and liver cancer. Besides, cigarettes are not the only problem. Outdoor and indoor pollutants can enter the lungs or bloodstream and cause disease. 

One of the most deadly is mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Seen often among military veterans who have spent years around disintegrating buildings, ships or war zones, the disease is especially hard to diagnose and treat. It can take from 20 to 50 years for symptoms to show up, and there is no cure. Pleural involvement is most common, but the disease may also affect peritoneal, pericardial or testicular tissue.

Treatments usually include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or medications. All can improve life span and aid recovery, but they can also cause serious side effects. Many patients are turning to holistic treatments to help them deal with the fatigue, pain, nausea and stress of both the disease and the treatment.

Holistic Care in Recovery and Wellness

Holistic medicine is the use of a variety of types of health care, ranging from alternative to conventional, to treat the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and ease their recovery. Alternative wellness techniques include practices like acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, massage and energy healing, but wellness therapies may extend to any service or discipline that helps the patient to relax in order for recovery to take place. 

Health usually refers to a patient's physical condition while wellness involves the entire mind, body and spirit. With holistic care, every patient has unique needs and responses. Lung cancer or mesothelioma patients may receive therapy to improve their ability to breathe or to help them relax.  Acupuncture can improve symptoms like pain, anxiety and nausea, and massage reduced similar symptoms by as much as 50 percent in one study.


Supplements and diet have been proven to be useful in recovering from a number of types of cancer. Certain supplements made from natural spices can actually slow tumor growth. Curcumin, for instance, which comes from the turmeric root, has been shown in studies to actually inhibit cancer cell growth and make certain types of chemotherapy more effective. Other natural foods can help patients in recovery by managing symptoms and side effects. Ginger is one example that is proven to reduce nausea associated with chemotherapy.


Meditation and other mindfulness practices are also useful strategies in cancer recovery. Regular meditation has long been known to reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus, but it also has physical effects, improving blood pressure and lowering heart rate. For patients recovering from cancer, studies have found that meditation significantly reduces stress and the fear associated with living with this disease.


And then there are newer medicines, those just beginning to gain acceptance, like CBD oil made from cannabis. Several studies have now shown that CBD oil can help cancer patients reduce pain, manage anxiety, and possibly even live longer.


Well-known hospitals like Johns Hopkins and Duke are integrating holistic therapies into their wellness programs. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows the top ten complaints during medical appointments are for lifestyle-related conditions like high blood pressure, fatigue and pain, and doctors say patients need to “think outside the pill bottle” for a remedy. Solutions may be as simple as wearing a pedometer and tracking 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day or taking the time to listen to a guided meditation before falling asleep. Holistic treatments can improve recovery from physical illnesses, but they can also promote wellness and emotional well-being, necessary ingredients for any recovery.