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Types of Treatment Approaches for Cancer

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Chronic diseases like cancer affect not only an individual's body but their mental health as well. Effective treatment may require a variety of methods for a solution. Different treatment methods vary according to approach, procedures, side effects, and acceptance within the medical community. The common types include standard treatment, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and integrated medicine.

Standard or conventional medicine is the accepted and recommended cancer treatment. Based on scientific evidence from research, standard medicine integrates essential medicine lists (EMLs) and formularies. EMLs are provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) containing medications considered the most effective and safe for treating cancer. The formularies include details about medication that can be prescribed.

Examples of accepted standard treatment approaches include surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted and hormonal therapy. The prescribed medications mainly aim to alleviate pain, nausea, and other issues that form the side effects of the procedures.

Unlike other treatment types, standard medicine can be easily optimized depending on the patient's needs. The treatment type also simplifies the medicine supply chain, training, transactions, and treatment decisions.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to medical products and practices not part of standard medical care. Complementary medicine includes treatments used alongside standard treatment. Different types of complementary therapy exist, each focusing on specific body parts. These include body-based practices, such as massage, reflexology, chiropractic manipulation, and cupping. Massages focus on nerve endings and pressure points for relaxation, stress reduction, improved mood, and pain alleviation.

Reflexology involves applying manual pressure to areas believed to correspond to specific body parts, such as the feet, hands, and ears. Reflexology is commonly used to relieve pain and nausea, especially from chemotherapy. Also, a hands-on approach, chiropractic manipulation focuses on the spine and joints, while cupping uses heated cups on the skin to improve blood flow. Mind-body complementary therapy includes meditation, deep breathing, yoga, animal-assisted therapy, and visualization. Lastly, energy-force therapy ranges from body movements like martial arts to other modes, such as acupuncture.

Alternative medicine, meanwhile, is a treatment option used instead of standard treatment to deal with cancer. This regimen, however, is not accepted or practiced by most medical doctors, especially for chronic ailments like cancer, due to insufficient scientific evidence on efficacy and lack of clinical trials. Examples of alternative medicine for cancer include special diets, vitamins in high doses, herbs, and Rife machines. The latter uses radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on the affected areas.

CAM practices serve several purposes that primarily start with the hope of treating or curing the disease. However, other significant uses include helping patients cope with the side effects of cancer, like nausea, fatigue, and pain. It also eases the stress and anxiety that come with cancer treatment.

Lastly, integrative medicine combines standard medicine and a non-conventional type, especially complementary therapy. For efficacy, the integration seeks to achieve a balanced, coordinated, evidence-based approach, depending on the type and severity of the cancer. Integrative medicine also seeks to compensate for any downsides of standard treatments, like chemotherapy and surgery, to make patients more tolerant of treatment and to preserve the immune system.