The ways people respond to cancer treatment vary, though the ways people respond to the most common cancer treatments (such as staples like chemotherapy) tend to be the same. As a cytotoxic drug, chemotherapy attacks any type of cell that grows quickly. While this includes cancer cells, it also includes cells like hair at gut cells, which is why people often lose their hair or have nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy.
Cancer cells can also recognize and become resistant to chemotherapy. As a result, researchers are searching every day for new and alternative forms of cancer therapy.
One such treatment that has been considered is the use of magnets. Sound strange? Keep reading to learn more about the theory behind magnetic therapy for cancer.
What is magnetic therapy?
Magnetic therapy (which often goes by several different names, such as biomagnetic therapy and electromagnetic therapy) is a theorized approach to cancer treatment and diagnosis that involves, you guessed it, magnets. Magnets range in sizes and purposes, from small ones you might wear around your wrist to large bed-like ones.
Magnets have been used in a range of different ways for treating health conditions, including pain treatments for chronic conditions like neuropathy, arthritis, and more. Specifically, the use of electromagnets (which have fluctuating magnetic fields) are approved for health uses, rather than static magnets (the more common type of magnet you are most likely familiar with). For example, the FDA approved an electromagnetic device to treat migraines.
However, many studies exploring magnetic therapy in these conditions haven’t proven anything conclusive about the therapy’s effectiveness. In fact, some studies have suggested that magnetic therapy was no more effective than placebo treatment (placebos look like a treatment but have no actual effect).
How does magnetic therapy work?
There have been a lot of different ideas and theories about how magnetic therapy works, though a predominant idea has to do with the interaction between a magnet placed near the body and ion channels and communication between cells.
Take, for example, pain management. Calcium and potassium are two common types of ions that are passed between cells as a communicative tool; they convey messages and send signals, telling cells what to do and how to work together. Some of these ion channels play a role in communicating pain signals in the body. So theoretically, disrupting or shifting the way ion channels work could help with how we experience pain, including helping to reduce pain.
How does magnetic therapy work for cancer?
The idea behind magnets and cancer focuses on the theory that magnetic energy fields actually play a role in our health. Because magnets, in theory, could affect ion communication, the thought is that correcting ion imbalances could have a beneficial effect on treating cancer and preventing the growth of cancer cells.
Is magnetic therapy safe?
Generally speaking, magnetic therapy is safe. It usually involves wearing magnets around your wrist or laying on a bed with magnets.
As a result, magnetic therapy is far less invasive than a surgical procedure, and it is not a cytotoxic drug like chemotherapy. You are likely to leave in less pain and discomfort than with other cancer treatments.
Is magnetic therapy effective?
Generally speaking, the consensus among researchers is that there is not enough evidence to support the claim that magnetic therapy is an effective cancer treatment.
However, some data exists that points in promising directions, though it is far from conclusive. For example, one study of mice injected with breast cancer cells found that magnetic therapy might help with suppressing the tumor growth. The researchers concluded that magnetic therapy could use more research as either a primary cancer therapy or a supportive therapy to treatments like chemotherapy.
Other research combines the use of magnetic therapy and another type of cancer therapy: hyperthermia therapy, or the use of heat to kill cancer cells. For example, a study explored the use of administering iron nanoparticles into a tumor and using magnets to create a magnetic field where the iron is moving so much it creates enough heat to destroy cancer cells. In their study, researchers tested this approach on mice, showing a 78-90% success rate of destroying tumor cells.
While this approach worked better in theory, it did show some promising directions for future research. For example, the use of magnetic fields could be used to target deep tumors, versus tumors accessible only on the surface.
If you want to learn more about magnetic therapy, or are curious how it could help your cancer, start by talking to your doctor. He or she can help you come up with the right treatment plan for your cancer.