The most common treatments for cancer involve radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and they are often among the first treatments used for many cancers. This includes colon cancer. Whether you’ve received these treatments or helped someone who received them, you know they can leave you feeling weak and experiencing a range of side effects. Sometimes, cancer can even come back after it’s been treated with chemotherapy, a scenario called chemotherapy-resistant cancer.
That’s why alternative treatments are important. While colon cancer affects only about 4% of the population, it’s still important to have a range of treatment options that can be combined and used for effective treatment. Having options to support current treatments or use them as alternatives can give people choices. Fortunately, various alternative and supportive cancer treatments exist to help.
Below are a few alternatives/complements to standard treatment for colon cancer. These alternative treatments can be grouped into one of two categories: general nutrition or mental/mindfulness practices.
General nutrition and lifestyle management
What we eat and don’t eat is a crucial way to help prevent or possibly treat certain types of cancer. The idea that what we eat impacts balance in our bodies is the idea behind why diet can help with cancer treatment. What we eat and do for our bodies can help support our body’s immune system for example.
Here are some foods that can help reduce the risk of colon cancer or help support you during treatment:
- Foods rich in antioxidants (berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash)
- Avoid processed foods or foods high in added sugars or fat.
- Avoid smoking, high-calorie diets, and excessive alcohol consumption (all have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer).
Herbs and botanicals
Various types of herbs and natural supplements have been explored as alternative or complementary treatments for people with cancer. For example, a recent study showed that a plant called Andrographis paniculata paired well with chemotherapy to help overcome treatment-resistant forms of colorectal cancer. This is especially promising because a good majority of colon cancer patients who take chemotherapy develop resistance to the treatment.
Reishi and maitake mushroom
Reishi mushrooms are used in traditional Asian medicine systems. They’ve been studied in a range of clinical trials, which have shown that the mushroom can have certain, positive impacts on the immune system and how it responds to cancer. It’s also been shown to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy and make radiation treatment more effective. It even proved helpful in preventing colorectal tumors from forming in some cases.
Maitake mushrooms are Japanese mushrooms also used in certain Asian medical practices. Like reishi mushrooms, research has also shown that maitake mushrooms have certain anti-tumor properties.
However, more research is needed for both types of mushrooms for both safety and effectiveness in people with cancer.
This might sound futuristic, but it uses a principle similar to therapies like hyperthermia therapy. Essentially, a laser is used in a minimally invasive way to destroy cancer cells and shrink the size of tumors. No surgery or toxic chemotherapy is needed for this treatment.
Hyperthermia treatment works by applying the use of heat to destroy cancer cells, usually by wrapping someone in hot blankets or placing them in a hot chamber. Heat can affect changes in and around cells at a number of levels. For example, it can cut off oxygen supply or even make the environment around cancer cells more hostile. These changes can make it easier for other therapeutics (such as chemotherapy) to destroy cancer cells.
There are different ways to produce heat for a therapeutic effect, and they generally tend to focus on local (specific) areas of the body, regional (such as different organs), or whole body approaches.
Many mindfulness therapies, while unable to treat or cure cancer on their own, can be an important supplemental treatment, whether you’re being treated with traditional or alternative cancer treatments. Specifically, these treatments can help improve the effectiveness of certain colon cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, or offer a way to lessen the severity of symptoms and side effects following other treatments. The complementary, mindfulness therapies include the following:
For example, mindfulness meditation was shown to reduce a process called cortisol blunting in people with colorectal cancer. Cortisol blunting has been shown to cause cancer to get worse.
With any type of cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure you fully understand the available treatment options and choose options that work for you. This should include talking to your doctor before starting any cancer treatment. They can help you decide which treatment options are right for you.