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Cancer: Alternative and Complementary Therapies Essay

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Updated: Mar 2nd, 2022

Among the many choices regarding cancer treatment programs, one which has recently gained much popularity both in the United States and the United Kingdom is one of complementary and alternative medicine or CAM. When we speak of CAM, it does not denote a specific form of therapy; rather it involves a vast number of dissimilar treatments and products which may range from therapy options which can improve an individual’s quality of life, to experimental drugs which are currently undergoing investigation for their efficacy. It may also refer to drugs and treatment plans which offer false hope to patients who may evade or delay their cancer care.

Since these treatments are not considered to be part of the normal treatment modality, it is the perspective of health professionals such as doctors, nurses and therapists who determine whether such therapies meet the standard of care for their patients and whether any beneficial effects can be received from them. This paper will offer the different perspectives on the issue of contemporary and alternative therapies in the case of cancer patients.

With the introduction of complementary and alternative medicine into the public mindset, there have been many sociological implications which have come into being. Giving consideration to these implications has shown how the adoption of such therapies is part of a greater movement of individuals towards a more modern social change. It can be acknowledged as a new movement within the public consciousness to allow a greater number of people access and credence to a whole new set of ideas. It may also show those same individuals becoming better versed within the field of complementary and alternative medicine. Whether the subject matter gives consideration to herbalists or healers in favour of physicians, the main factor governing its newfound popularity is its exclusion from the field of health care.

It is perhaps due to this exclusion that complementary and alternative medications can be seen by patients from three perspectives. The first perspective is that complementary and alternative medications are natural thus allowing the body to heal itself naturally.

The second perspective refers to CAM medications having a longer connection to the tradition of healing than the practice of medicine itself. Another perspective is the viewpoint that contemporary and alternative therapies are holistic. The belief is that the use of such medications allows the body to heal not only physically but also in terms of mind, body and soul. Yet another perspective regards the use of energy in CAM, with practitioners using the flow of natural energy in the body and removing blockages in order to heal individuals (Lee-Treweek & Heller, 2005).

If we explore the changes to the nursing profession, this shift in demand has brought new roles to the institution. Necessitating change and requiring that the profession evolve in order to keep up with the needs of its patients. At the basic level however, CAM therapies and nursing are both directed towards achieving the same goals. In many ways the use of such therapies may be seen to be the increased involvement of individuals within their own healing plans.

In order to allow and teach patients to use the best of both systems in order to ensure the best results, they have begun the use of an approach known as integrative therapy. Integrative therapy is a relatively new form of approach which does not ascribe importance to standard medicine or alternative medicine. Rather it combines both techniques to provide the patient with a treatment plan to ensure a healthy outcome (Daniels, 2004).

Within the nursing profession, it is the duty and obligation of every nurse to not only allow credence to these alternative therapies and interpret their efficacies within their realms of their nursing practice. It is also their responsibility to ensure that patients are provided supporting proof regarding the use of these therapies when they are employed as nursing treatment plans. It is expected that nurses who employ use of these therapies will do so not only as nurses who are qualified to suggest such therapies as being beneficial to their patients. But also can provide such treatment within the legal boundaries which have been set down as guidelines and regulations within the nursing profession.

Additionally, it is also expected that nurses who employ the use of such therapies will do so in a manner which can only be beneficial to the patient in question and thus is being used in a manner which is within the boundaries of their experience (Crisp, Potter, Taylor & Perry, 2005).

The rationale behind the use of such therapies, being of course there is a recognized long/short term benefit to individuals who wish to employ them. It is important that there are policies in place to ensure that the use of such practices is made with guidelines for safe and healthy use. Thus it becomes equally important that parameters are set which allow for not only the permission and written consent of the use of such procedures.

But also allows for considerations which can ensure the responsibility of nurses and health workers who administer and suggest such therapies. Other considerations may include the determination of which therapies may be employed in the workplace and the aid of experts in the field to create modalities of treatment serving the interests of both medical practitioners and patients alike (Crisp, Potter, Taylor & Perry, 2005).

Of course despite the widespread appeal of CAM within the medical setting today there are issues which can derail the integration of such therapies into normal medical practice. These issues may range from being political to educational in nature. Political issues are mainly related to the use of such therapies under the vernacular of professional health services. Due to the exclusion of such therapies from the medical profession, the implementation of such therapies within the profession even as a placebo effect may be seen as a negative step in the advancement of medical science. Other issues may be related to the realms of ownership of such therapies and the impact of providing such therapies to consumers (Crisp, Potter, Taylor & Perry, 2005).

Moving on, other issues are acknowledged within the practice of such therapies themselves. There is an inherent uncertainty within the nursing profession regarding not only the relationship such therapies have to the nursing practice but also to any system of health care. There are of course also difficulties associated with implementing such therapies into future nursing curriculums. It is only through the overcoming of such issues that present day nursing can successfully implement these treatment modalities (Crisp, Potter, Taylor, & Perry, 2005).

Towards this end there have been several research studies which have attempted to show the benefits of implementing such therapies into conventional treatment plans. A study of 1,290 patients diagnosed with breast cancer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that patients who were provided massage therapy during a three year period were far more likely to cope with their symptoms. The patients who received such therapy showed significant improvement in their stress and anxiety levels concluding that such treatment could have great significance in patients who are being treated for cancer (Pruthi, Degnim, Bauer, DePompolo & Nayar, 2009).

Another study gave consideration to the relationship between the intake of soy and breast cancer. It employed the use of 34 existing studies in a review of whether or not the dietary intake of soy was safe for women with breast cancer and whether such dietary intakes should be avoided by breast cancer patients in the future (Enderlin, Coleman, Stewart, & Hakkak, 2009). Yet another study explored the various perspectives regarding the use of music within cancer treatment centers by the use of relevant studies.

The study found that there were a varied number of perspectives regarding the use of music as a therapeutic tool. It also found that the effectiveness of music therapy can also have a major influence on the results of the studies conducted. It suggests that in order to fully develop music as a therapeutic tool, it must be employed and supported at both the clinical and the educational level (Olofsson, 2009).

Yet another study provided consideration to professional perspectives of nurses stationed in oncology providing palliative care to their patients. The study found that it was due to these different perspectives that different levels of palliative care were provided to patients. These different levels of care in turn would lead to delayed implementation, confusion within the responsibilities and a disparity in the level of care provided for patients and their families. It also found that the proper implementation of such palliative care within nursing organizations can aid in the improvement of nursing development and function. It would also bring about a marked improvement in the implementation of the five main nursing roles of teaching, caring and co-coordinating, advocating and mobilizing (Pavlish & Ceronsky, 2009).

There have also been surveys conducted regarding the use of Contemporary and alternative medications by individuals with multiple sclerosis. Research studies have found that 36 of a 100 individuals with the disease employed the use of homeopathy and herbs. While 23 percent of these individuals who used such therapies said they received referrals from licensed medical practitioners. The main driving force behind the reason for use of these therapies was centered upon the need to employ the use of holistic medication and the growing non compliance with the use of traditional medicine. Another survey of individuals with peripheral neuropathies and spinal cord injuries found that 40% of them used acupuncture as an alternative therapy and found them beneficial (Newton & Fowler, 2006).

With the increased implementation of information technology and increasing demand for new and improved treatment modalities, institutions for implementation of care are becoming more and more complex with demands for the inclusion of contemporary and alternative care becoming more and more numerous. The Nursing profession has taken on all new and all different roles which have necessitated nurses taking on roles and responsibilities which they would have never given consideration to before. By implementing these new therapies and modalities nurses can provide patients and their families with treatment options which can improve their roles as care takers, advance their professional attributes and provide treatment options to patients they never had before.

Reference List

Crisp, J., Potter, P. A., Taylor, C. & Perry, A. G. (2005). Potter & Perry’s fundamentals of nursing. Sydney: Elsevier Australia.

Daniels, R. (2004). Nursing fundamentals: caring & clinical decision making. Florence: Cengage Learning.

Enderlin, C. A., Coleman, E. A., Stewart, C. B. & Hakkak, R. (2009). Dietary Soy Intake and Breast Cancer Risk. Oncology Nursing Forum Vol 36 Issue 5 , 531-39.

Lee-Treweek, G. & Heller, T. (2005). Perspectives on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. New York: Routledge.

Newton, L. & Fowler, S. (2006). Complementary and alternative therapies: the nurse’s role. Journal of Neuroscience Nursing Vol 38, Issue 4 , 261-4.

Olofsson, A. (2009). Perspectives on Music Therapy in Adult Cancer Care: A Hermeneutic Study. Oncology Nursing Forum Vol 36 No. 4 , E223-231.

Pavlish, C. & Ceronsky, L. (2009). Oncology Nurses’ Perceptions of Nursing Roles and Professional Attributes in Palliative Care. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing Vol 13 No. 4 , 404-412.

Pruthi, S., Degnim, A. C., Bauer, B. A., DePompolo, R. W. & Nayar, V. (2009). Value of Massage Therapy for Patients in a Breast Clinic. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing Vol 13 No. 4 , 422-25.

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