Background: This chapter aims to differentiate between “alternative” therapies, often promoted falsely as viable options to mainstream lung cancer treatment, and complementary therapies, adjunctive, effective techniques that treat symptoms associated with cancer and its mainstream treatment, and to describe the evidence base for use of complementary therapies.
Methods and design: A multidisciplinary panel of experts in oncology and integrative medicine evaluated the evidence for complementary (not alternative) therapies in the care of patients with lung cancer. Because few complementary modalities are geared to patients with only a single cancer diagnosis, symptom-control research conducted with other groups of patients with cancer was also included. Data on complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, mind-body therapies, herbs and other botanicals, and exercise were evaluated. Recommendations were based on the strength of evidence and the risk-to-benefit ratio.
Results: Patients with lung and other poor-outlook cancers are particularly vulnerable to heavily promoted claims for unproved or disproved “alternatives.” Inquiring about patients’ use of these therapies should be routine because these practices may be harmful and can delay or impair treatment. Mind-body modalities and massage therapy can reduce anxiety, mood disturbance, and chronic pain. Acupuncture assists the control of pain and other side effects and helps reduce levels of pain medication required. Trials of acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and postthoracotomy pain show promising results. Herbal products and other dietary supplements should be evaluated for side effects and potential interactions with chemotherapy and other medications.
Conclusions: Complementary therapies have an increasingly important role in the control of symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment.