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Mesothelioma Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies for mesothelioma are available, but are mostly not tested or have not been proven to be effective in actually treating the cancer. Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, even with traditional and modern medicines. There are many alternative therapies, however, that patients may want to try to help relieve some of the symptoms of mesothelioma and its treatments.

Mesothelioma is the aggressive type of cancer that attacks the mesothelium. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural, the cancer of the lining of the lungs, and is most often caused by exposure to asbestos. There are no alternative therapies shown in research to help treat this type of cancer, but there are strategies that may help relieve symptoms and that may have some anti-cancer properties including supplements and herbs, acupuncture and yoga, and more.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Alternative therapies are officially known as CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine. This name refers to the fact that many of the treatment strategies can be used alongside traditional medicine, or as a complement, and to the fact that they are different treatment approaches from those used in traditional medicine. Another term for using both traditional and alternative therapies is integrative medicine. CAM refers to any treatment or therapy that lies outside the scope of traditional medicine.

There are many CAM therapies and strategies that can help patients with mesothelioma feel better, and most of these have no adverse effects. There are some, however, that can have negative and dangerous side effects. Patients should always be wary of any type of CAM treatment that claims to be able to cure mesothelioma or other type of cancer. If you are interested in CAM treatments, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

Supplements and Herbs

Dietary supplements and herbs are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and many are not rigorously tested for efficacy of safety. On the other hand, there are plenty of natural herbs that people have used for millennia to treat ailments. Some of these may have anti-cancer properties, some may help relieve symptoms of cancer and side effects of chemotherapy, some may be harmless, and others may cause dangerous side effects. Never use an herb or supplement without first talking to your health care team.

Cannabis is one such natural substance that has been proven to be useful for cancer patients, not in treating cancer, but in relieving symptoms. It relieves nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, all symptoms of chemotherapy. It also relieves anxiety, which many patients with cancer have. Herbal supplements including mistletoe and cat’s claw may be able to kill cancer cells, and may also relieve side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and boost the immune system.

Mind-Body Therapies

Certain ancient cultures have used mind-body therapies for thousands of years for a variety of reasons, including yoga, meditation, tai chi, and other practices. These practices are used to unify the body and mind, to increase relaxation and mindfulness and to relieve stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that yoga, meditation, and other similar strategies do help cancer patients. They will not cure cancer, but they help patients develop a better quality of life through better sleep, less pain, and less fatigue and stress.

Body Therapies

Body-based therapies include treatments that, like mind-body therapies, date back thousands of years as well as more modern techniques. One example is acupuncture, which comes from traditional Chinese medicine. The practice involves the insertion of small needles into the skin to realign meridians, or lines of energy in the body. Acupressure is similar, but uses the pressure of touch instead of needles. When administered by a professional, these strategies can relieve pain, vomiting, fatigue, and other side effects of mesothelioma treatments.

Another, more modern, body-based therapy that cancer patients may benefit from is TENS, which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The therapy uses low levels of electrical current to help manage pain. It is usually used along with massage therapy and is administered by a professional and licensed chiropractor.

Emotional Therapies

Coping with the emotional effects of living with mesothelioma, going through treatments, and being given a life expectancy, is important for cancer patients to improve quality of life. Being sick with cancer can cause feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, and fear, among others, and emotional types of therapy can help patients come to grips with these feelings and learn coping strategies that make life easier.

Counseling, psychotherapy, and other traditional types of therapy may be helpful in managing the emotions of cancer. Patients also benefit from alternative types of therapy like art or music therapy and animal therapy. Spending time with therapy animals can bring a great sense of calm and relief to patients and may even have some physical health benefits.


Homeopathy is a type of CAM that dates back about 200 years. It was developed in Germany based on the philosophy of treating illnesses with very dilute concentrations of toxins. Practitioners of homeopathy believe that giving someone a toxin that produces similar effects to the illness will actually promote healing. They also believe that lower concentrations, almost minute, will heal the body.

While many of the substances used in homeopathy are toxic, they are used in such low concentrations that they are generally considered harmless. There is no evidence from research that homeopathy helps treat any condition, let alone cancer or the symptoms of cancer treatments.

Energy Therapies

Energy therapies are those that are supposed to use healing energies to heal the body and mind. Sound energy therapy, for instance uses the energy of sounds to induce relaxation. Practitioners of this may use a Tibetan singing bowl or other instrument to produce certain sounds. Other energy therapies include reiki, a type of massage that is supposed to balance and rejuvenate the energy in the body of the patient through touch, and Jin Shin Jyutsu, another type of touch therapy that supposedly harnesses energy.

Holistic Medicine

A holistic approach to medicine relies on the idea that the whole body and mind should be treated, not just a single disease. Instead of treating just mesothelioma, for instance, a holistic practitioner would include nutrition, supplements, and other CAM therapies that heal the whole body. A naturopathic practitioner is one that typically prescribes natural and CAM therapies for patients along with traditional treatments. An osteopathic practitioner of holistic medicine may do the same, but especially emphasizes the way the whole body is connected, particularly through the musculoskeletal system.


Good nutrition by itself is not considered a CAM treatment. Most doctors practicing traditional medicine encourage their patients to eat a healthful and balanced diet. There are some CAM practitioners, though, that do believe nutrition can be a more integrated part of treatment for cancer. Some research has backed up this practice, showing that cancer patients are more likely to be generally healthier and to have fewer recurrences of cancer when eating a healthy diet.

There is no evidence that eating a certain diet can cure cancer, but it is recognized that a healthy diet is important. Cancer and its treatments, for instance, can change the way the body metabolizes food, which means that a patient may not be getting as much nutrition as is necessary. Treatments for mesothelioma may also make people lose the will to eat, which also leads to poor nutrition. Sticking to a healthy diet, high in nutrients is important for feeling better and coping with the treatment side effects.


As with nutrition, exercise cannot cure cancer, but can help cancer patients feel better and enjoy a better quality of life. A healthy diet along with regular exercise keeps patients mobile longer, boosts energy, helps promote a healthy appetite, improves mood and reduces stress, and generally helps patients have better physical health in spite of having mesothelioma and undergoing harsh treatments.

With any type of complimentary or alternative medicine, communicating with your medical team is crucial. You should never try something new without first consulting with your doctor. Supplements may interact with cancer drugs, an exercise routine may be too rigorous for your body, and other complications may be possible. CAM strategies are mostly safe, but some can have unintended consequences. Feel free to try any strategy that has been confirmed as safe for you and decide if it helps you to feel better.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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