Side Effects & Symptoms: Overview
Palliative Care: Addressing Symptoms at Any Stage of Disease
Palliative care, a specialized field of medical care, focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.1
While some patients, and even some healthcare providers, might think of palliative care as “end of life care”, relief from suffering and improvements in quality of life certainly do not need to be reserved for the end of life. Assistance with managing many unpleasant symptoms is available throughout the course of treatment and recovery. If your healthcare providers do not address symptom management care, consider asking for a referral to a palliative care specialist.
What goes with cancer that causes suffering? Anxiety, fear, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, sexual problems, grief, pain, changes in appetite and the like.
It may be a big surprise how much complementary therapies have to offer in easing the side effects, symptoms, and mind-body states that often come with cancer.
BCCT gives high priority to providing information about side effects and symptoms and their management. Managing the distress caused by symptoms from cancer or cancer treatments is key to improving a patient’s quality of life and may even affect longevity. Good management—from hospice and palliative care programs—of pain and symptoms in people with advanced cancer often leads to longer survival compared to those with unmanaged symptoms.2
Managing Side Effects and Symptoms
Many complementary approaches are effective in preventing and/or relieving cancer symptoms. On this website, a searchable database allows our users to find therapies that address specific symptoms and the research regarding those therapies. Here we provide a brief overview of symptoms and links to therapies that have been shown to be effective.
- Changes in appetite
- Hot flashes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Sexual difficulties
- Sleep disruption
Laura Pole, RN, OCNS, October 18, 2018: Janie Brown is an oncology nurse and co-founder of a cancer retreat program and centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her BCCT story, The Power of the Integrative Approach in Breast Cancer Treatment (see in Personal Stories below), is a treasure trove of helpful information. She describes how her partner with breast cancer and her team made decisions about chemotherapy, wove in useful complementary therapies to prevent and minimize treatment side effects and created a caring community. The integrative plan staved off the usual chemotherapy side effects of peripheral neuropathy, mucositis, fatigue, nausea and neutropenia.
Ruth Hennig, a two-time breast cancer survivor and member of the BCCT team, has written blog posts describing her experience using acupuncture and other complementary approaches to bolster her resilience during treatment and tame her anxiety upon learning the breast cancer had recurred. Her tips and insights for taking care of herself after a double mastectomy are simple and practical, and they may be incredibly valuable for others having a mastectomy. See her posts in the Our Blog box below.
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- Neil McKinney, BSc, ND: Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- University of Arizona: Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine Online Courses
- American Society of Clinical Oncology: Cancer.Net
- Wayne Jonas, MD: Your Healing Journey: A Patient’s Guide to Integrative Breast Cancer Care
- Dwight McKee, MD, editor: Clinical Pearls
- Ralph Moss, PhD: The Ultimate Guide to Cancer: DIY Research