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Complementary and Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments

Limited Impact of Standard Treatments for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare, yet aggressive disease in which many standard treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, do not have significant impact.  Part of the reason for this is because the symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to less serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, and therefore diagnosis often doesn’t occur until the cancer has reached advanced stages.

Because  of the limited effect of conventional therapies, some diagnosed with mesothelioma choose to also use complementary or alternative treatments either to help slow the progression of the disease or to relieve pain.  Conventional therapy (also referred to as frontline or standard treatment) is defined by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as “a currently accepted and widely used treatment…based on the results of past research.”

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

CAM therapies are forms of medicine that are used either in addition to (complementary) or in place of (alternative) standard treatments.  The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine  (NCCAM) sponsors various clinical trials, sometimes in conjunction with NCI, researching various CAM therapies to find additional therapeutic options for treating mesothelioma.

CAM covers a wide variety of alternative interventions, such as nutritional supplements, diet, vitamin or light therapy, massage, acupuncture, herbal preparations, relaxation, meditation, other spiritual or  healing methods.  In addition, much research is being conducted to find more traditional, scientific based ways to predict and diagnose mesothelioma earlier and more accurately as well as slow down the progression and provide higher symptom relief.  This types of studies are often referred to as integrative - combining research based conventional with complementary treatments that have been found to be safe and effective after research studies have been conducted.

For anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to consult with your medical team to make sure that any additional medicine or approaches have been evaluated as being safe and that they fit well with your treatment plan.    Many times, alternative therapies can be highly effective at pain and symptom management while not interfering with standard treatments.

Clinical Trials for CAM

If you would like to consider using CAM therapies, consult with your doctor about the benefits and risks, any side effects, if the cost can be covered by insurance, and whether any clinical trials are going on that you would qualify to participate in.  You can also search the following sites to see what clinical trials for mesothelioma are currently being offered:

  • NCI’s PDQ Clinical Trials  You can also call to get more information 1-800-4-CANCER. 
  • NCCAM Clinical Trials
  • OCCAM Clinical Trials, also provides links to NCI’s PDQ Clinical Trials Database.
  • Clinical Trials.Gov

Many mesothelioma patients as well as their caregivers and loved ones benefit from combining therapies that address all aspects of mind-body-spirit.   Consult with your doctor about what might be helpful for you and your particular needs.  Our articles posted here are also an excellent resource of the latest research on complementary and alternative therapies for mesothelioma as well.